Are you a corporate business in need to hit the quarterly revenue quotas and be cost-efficient? Or are you a startup having to ensure maximum profitability of your investments? Be it implementing a feature your competitors have, and you don’t, or ensuring your business’s scalability, a technology roadmap will guarantee that your investments and efforts align with your long-term goals.
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Technology roadmap, or an IT roadmap, is an umbrella term with multiple use cases. The most common case is creating an inventory of the tools, systems, and processes used in your organization. This approach helps align the technology stack with the strategic business goals and plan the evolution timeline and milestones that will demonstrate actual improvements.
Roadmaps are usually planned for 18 months in advance and updated at least once a quarter. Technology roadmap depends on the goals you pursue, the unique operational DNA of your business, the way you wish your company to evolve. Thus, there will never be two identical examples of an IT roadmap, despite similar types and templates.
There are three core types of technology roadmaps:
Let’s take a quick look at their similarities and differences.
It aims to define how new IT components, whether these are a tool, a process, or a new technology, align with your business strategy and support its growth. This type of roadmap helps answer the following questions:
For example, you want to increase the number of paid subscriptions by 30% this year. One of the simplest ways is converting your free tier users into paid ones. To do so, you should invest in the marketing strategy and implement a better marketing automation system to keep these users in the loop. Your sales and customer support divisions might need a powerful CRM to address new paid customers’ needs and keep them happy; it also might require updating the internal IT systems to ensure you can scale better. Building an IT roadmap is vital to coordinate all of these activities and bring them to fruition.
There are two main technology roadmap modes: Swimlane and Timeline. Swimlane shows all the projects and stages like Backlog, Design, Implementation, and Done, so you can see what is currently happening across your IT ecosystem.
But sometimes, knowing what is done isn’t as important as knowing when it’ll be done. The Timeline view shows the expected delivery time for every IT initiative. However, things happen, so the Timeline roadmap should never be considered a schedule — it’s a somewhat approximate delivery plan with shifting deadlines.
The Timeline’s critical benefit lies in the fact that the time planned to deliver some projects usually roughly represents the number of resources needed to complete it. You can validate the resources devoted to every initiative and relocate them from secondary to primary goals, should the priorities shift.
When starting a business, you need only a handful of tools to run a shop by a single person. However, as the company grows and departments form, the number of apps in use increases. At some point, no tech administrator can remember the full stack of apps your teams work with and why.
An app roadmap is an organization-wide initiative to create a clear picture of the tools currently used and planned for implementation. It helps avoid duplication of resources, minimize the number of unused licenses, and set priorities straight. Mapping out what to upgrade and when helps keep your stakeholders up to speed.
Software is eating the world, and as a decade ago, this statement doesn’t lose a bit of meaning. Most likely, your business communicates with its customers online and provides some products or services on the internet. To be useful and profitable, these products and services must be developed, released, and updated, and dev roadmap helps oversee this situation.
However, business stakeholders shouldn’t pay attention to every detail of every sprint. The dev roadmap isn’t a project management control panel with all the tasks, deadlines, bug reports, etc. It’s more of a high-level overview of the team’s product development priorities, so the managers can quickly grasp when to expect the release of a shiny new feature and coordinate the work of other departments accordingly.
There are several essential advantages of drafting a technology roadmap, and they fit for any business, large and small.
Every market is competitive, and competing by price tag alone doesn’t work anywhere outside of grocery stores. Most outstanding businesses offer unique features or customer experience based on technology their competitors don’t provide. The roadmap helps highlight the time and resources needed to implement the latest technology and stay ahead of the market.
Uber is a great example. It disrupted the transportation market by allowing any driver to earn extra cash and any passenger to get to their destination in a luxury car instead of a cab. This result was achieved by launching a user-friendly mobile app, while the rest of the market offered only a callback option. Now, almost every taxi service has a mobile app, but Uber has already made a considerable profit.
A roadmap shows the approximate timeline for rolling out new features, processes, and tools, and, therefore, can highlight upcoming expenses. Of course, the hardware can still unexpectedly fail and cost you in operational spending and data value, unless you have replication in place and planned for contingency and failover. However, while unplanned expenses can happen, knowing when to expect predictable investments helps plan the IT budget better.
If your business is cloud-native, a question “to cloud or not to cloud” should not bother you. But if you’re still using mainframe systems or dedicated servers, as most companies do, cloud migration is a hot thing. Still, the transition to the cloud can render your business infrastructure inoperable if planned and executed poorly. Technology roadmap helps note and keep track of multiple steps for your cloud journey to succeed.
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Roadmaps help prepare for any regulatory and compliance changes your company must undergo.
Having a structured plan of IT systems evolution helps predict the need for new talent. This way, your HR and talent acquisition department can start looking for the right candidates long before they are needed. And you can get the best fits, not just someone to put out a fire that has been burning for half a year already. Speaking of which…
To continually remind of the problem your department faces and to show how it affects the rest of the organization is a whole different beast. The technology roadmap helps highlight the crucial challenges for every company and dedicate sufficient resources to solve them timely. By the way, about the appropriate solution…
The roadmap underscores mid- and long-term business objectives and draws your employees’ attention to it. Instead of doing routine tasks that can be automated, which is the roadmap’s most urgent priority, it’ll free up employee’s time to achieve goals that matter.
Many companies consider their IT departments processual bottlenecks and money wasters. At the same time, they should be the drivers of tech innovation to make the business more productive. Technology roadmap helps align the business goals and IT initiatives to improve interdepartmental communication, show how and when the needs will be addressed, explain why some tasks take so much time. Spoiler alert: it’s most likely not due to IT being pricks, it’s because they need to do something else first to fulfill your request.
As mentioned above, there’ll never be two exactly matching roadmaps, as they depend on a variety of factors. For example, scaling your business up or down entails two different approaches:
Once the direction of your company evolution is selected, the rest of the steps are pretty straightforward.
Guessing is medieval. In the 21st century, an IT director has a wealth of data at their disposal:
This list isn’t exhaustive, and other business stakeholders can add to it. Creating an IT roadmap aims to set a productive dialogue between all business units and ensure the IT goals are in line with the company ones.
A roadmap is essentially a timeline, where to the left, you have your current IT situation, and to the right, the target you want to reach in 18 months. Break these long-term goals into shorter tasks, assign them to responsible people — and there you have it! To succeed with your IT roadmap, you have actually to consider multiple factors:
It all sounds great, but what about the actual examples? Take a look at these:
As you can see, roadmaps shouldn’t be covering all the aspects of every process in fine detail. They are high-level strategic overviews that show the general direction of evolution for your company’s IT initiatives.
It’s natural to want to have your roadmap management solutions combined with project management apps. After all, this simplifies minute task tracking and progress monitoring and provides easy access to the history of analytics. That’s why the most popular project management platforms come with built-in roadmap management features:
All these tools enable you to devise and manage the technology roadmap for your organization, while also monitoring the completion of the projects it consists of. Experiment with free versions to find what fits your needs best.
To wrap it up, creating a technology roadmap for your product, the IT department, or the entire business is quite doable. Base it on your estimates regarding future company scale, make data-driven decisions based on input from all key stakeholders, and review the roadmap regularly to ensure the goals are relevant and align with the business strategy.
If this sounds too complicated or you don’t want to delve deep in the roadmap management — consider working with reliable consultants. At Relevant Software, we have delivered over 200 software projects and have solid experience in planning and following all kinds of roadmaps. Should you want to tap into that expertise — let us know. We’re always glad to assist!