8 Ways to Know Your Company is Ready for a Technology Roadmap
The CIO (Chief Information Officer) is traditionally the most senior executive responsible for a company’s Information Technology (IT). However, this doesn’t necessarily mean the company’s technology is the CIO’s only focus. While the CIO is responsible for the overall technology strategy of the company, including putting into place risk mitigation plans and implementing new tech throughout business operations as smoothly as possible, the CIO is also responsible for making sure that technology serves the needs of the employees of the company and the departments they work in.
In order for modern businesses to remain competitive, and to ensure both scalability and a consistent increase in both their top and bottom lines, SMEs and larger enterprises must not only effectively and efficiently incorporate technology into their overall business strategy, but must align their daily, short-term and long-term plans and operations to their overarching business model. Such a business model typically includes the overall long-term vision of the company, along with a short but concise list of long-term goals that should be accomplished in order for the company to be successful. Usually, businesses start off small and grow larger over time.
This increase in internal workflows, operations, clients, and manpower translates to an enterprise having a different set of technology requirements, resource needs and, oftentimes, short-term goals, and products/services offered by the company. Additionally, as technology evolves and gives businesses the ability to offer new products/services and strategic differentiators, it is critical that enterprise executives are able to correctly leverage such IT systems in order to remain competitive, and to continually increase their workplace operational efficiency, all of which can ultimately increase profit margins and the bottom line.
A critical process that all businesses should conduct early on in the development of a startup is the crafting of a comprehensive business strategy or business plan (collectively known as a strategic plan). Put simply, a corporate strategic plan is a high-level, thorough document highlighting all long-term goals of an organization, along with the details of how to accomplish those goals: the resources/finances and IT systems that will be needed, how to incorporate the overarching business vision with short-term goals and daily operations, and how to align all corporate processes with the overall business model.
Additionally, a corporate strategic plan should include projected timelines for projects, estimated financial costs, an architectural design of the organization, financial goals associated with a timeline, and more. Essentially, a corporate strategic plan can be thought of as a blueprint or roadmap detailing the overarching goals of an enterprise, and how to leverage all resources at hand to accomplish those goals.
An effective business strategy details how to effectively leverage IT systems in order to increase the bottom and top lines of a business, and to meet the short-term and long-term goals of the organization. To that end, businesses typically incorporate an Information Technology (IT) strategic plan within the corporate strategic plan, which allows executives, managers and personnel to have a visual guide – a blueprint or roadmap – as to what IT components/systems are needed for the business to be successful, and how said IT systems can be leveraged efficiently on a daily basis to accomplish all of the long-term business goals of the enterprise.
While an IT strategic plan is often an umbrella term associated with a high-level document detailing the core points of strategically implementing IT systems in an enterprise (to visualize the processes required to accomplish its critical goals via technology), businesses also need to craft and utilize the finer points of the overarching IT strategic plan via a comprehensive technology roadmap.
What is a Technology Roadmap?
Strategically planning the use and implementation of IT systems in an organization allows a business to align its goals with requisite and pertinent IT components, thus maximizing their ROI and increasing internal operations/workflows, all of which helps to increase the bottom line. A technology roadmap is a high-level document operating as a detailed description, roadmap and blueprint that aligns the business vision of an enterprise with the daily operations of an organization. Such a document helps internal teams to strategically operate in the short-term and long-term, while aiding managers in making strategic and tactical decisions that benefit the company’s overall goals via technology.
One of the more important aspects of a technology roadmap is a projected timeline of projects, goals and potential issues and risks a company may face in the long-term. Thus, while a technology roadmap helps to identify ways that technology can be used to meet organizational goals, it also visualizes how IT solutions can help the company to scale, solve risks and corporate issues, and increase both the bottom and top lines by increasing internal efficiency and team-based productivity.
Additionally, a technology roadmap should reveal and describe how technology can result in the business offering new products/services, how IT can allow for strategic differentiators (to make the company more competitive) and how novel, future technology and IT innovations can be leveraged to give the company an edge in the market. When crafting a technology roadmap, executives often map out ways that future technology can shake up “business as usual” and even alter their business model, thus allowing them to plan ahead and stay ahead of competition.
The elements of a high-level technology roadmap typically include:
- Internal IT roadmap
- Software/Enterprise software roadmap
- Hardware roadmap
- Cyber security roadmap
- Infrastructure roadmap
- Architecture roadmap
- Tech R&D roadmap
The IT strategic plan/technology roadmap is typically crafted by the Chief Information Officer (CIO) – often with the expertise of external strategy consultants – when a company becomes large enough to think strategically instead of just tactically. While short-term, strategic and tactical plans are often mapped out near the end of an organization’s fiscal year, the overarching strategic plan, IT strategic plan / technology roadmap will typically be crafted once – and refreshed periodically – and thus is typically completed in a very detailed, careful and comprehensive manner.
While a technology roadmap is important, and understanding what it is is critical, it is also significant to understand that – while anywhere from three percent to 33 percent of businesses succeed in integration and aligning daily operations with the overall business strategy – a technology roadmap often fails to be successfully adopted by enterprises for a number of reasons, as noted by Forbes:
- Equating a Budget to a Strategic Plan: While integrating financial projections and overhead requirements in an overall financial budget is important – and even detailing financial allocations for IT systems/projects is critical – it doesn’t equate with a strategic plan or an IT roadmap. Though Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) often take part in crafting IT strategic plans/technology roadmaps, a CIO typically crafts the details of the overall IT plan.
- Failure to agree on current, critical issues: If current issues cannot be resolved by executives via agreement, then crafting and implementing a long-term IT plan/roadmap will not likely succeed.
- Over complication: While a technology roadmap must be comprehensive, robust and detailed, it is best to keep such plans as simple as possible, especially due to the changing nature of evolving/new technology systems. Setting core priorities and summarizing how to accomplish key corporate objectives in a simple manner is critical.
- Lack of accountability: Accountability should be top-down, bottom-up and side-to-side, so that all strategic plans – which equates with change to business operations and workflows over time – can be accomplished successfully, which can only happen when all teams are operating in an optimal manner.
It is equally important for businesses to understand when to craft a technology roadmap in order to be successful in correctly utilizing such a plan. There are a number of signs to look out for that reveal it’s time for a technology roadmap to be crafted.
1. You are Unsure How Your Technology is Benefiting Your Business
Since a technology roadmap allows for the visualization of prioritized ideas and initiatives for a business to succeed, it follows that when a company is unsure of how its IT assets are fulfilling those ideas/initiatives and objectives, crafting a technology roadmap can help to reveal how current IT components are helping the organization (or hurting it). A technology roadmap is a future-focused document as well, which helps to ensure that, in the future, all IT systems will be leveraged efficiently in a way that helps the business. Thus a technology roadmap helps with high-level assessments of an enterprise’s IT infrastructure, both currently and in the future.
2. You Aren’t Sure How You Will Respond to Technology Developments
As technology rapidly evolves, operating in a company devoid of a technology roadmap often means that a company’s executives will not fully know how to leverage novel technologies in a way that can help the company gain an edge, or keep up with the competition. Thus, when executives don’t have a plan for how to integrate new technology into a business, or how to respond to unpredictable or disruptive technology, that is usually a sign it is time to craft a technology roadmap.
3. You Want to Forecast Technology Expenses
Crafting an IT budget is an important and difficult task in any company. But without a technology roadmap, it is often more difficult to predict what IT systems a business needs to optimally fulfill its goals. Without a strategy in place, executives are typically unable to know how to strategically use the requisite IT solutions to fulfill the overarching business vision. Thus, having a technology roadmap can help a business to effectively budget for the future.
4. No Consensus on How to Achieve Goals Using Tech
Often a company will lack an overall, executive-level agreement on how to leverage IT systems for the furthering of the organization’s goals. A technology roadmap identifies where the business wants to be in the future, and how technology can help the enterprise get there, thereby helping a company to plan the use of IT systems to achieve both short-term and long-term goals.
5. You are Facing Future Compliance Issues
Government regulations are constantly changing. It can be costly and problematic for a business to not be in compliance with government legislations. Operating without a technology roadmap often means a business does not know whether their IT systems are being used in a compliant manner regarding both data privacy and cyber security. Having a technology roadmap in place can help to ensure that a business has a plan to remain compliant.
6. Your Business is Growing
Scalability is one of the most important aspects of a strategic plan, including a technology roadmap. Whether your company is rapidly growing or moderately growing its needs and requirements change over time. Without a technology roadmap, it is often very difficult for executives to stay on top of the growing needs of the company, and how IT systems can be leveraged to mitigate/solve those needs, or how the components of the IT infrastructure need to be altered in order to support the growing requirements of the company. It is only possible to scale a business effectively by implementing a robust IT strategic plan/technology roadmap – one that looks ahead to determine how a growing company can benefit from a specific set of IT solutions, according to a defined and specific timeline.
7. Your Competition is More Advanced Technologically
Staying ahead of the competition is important. Whether it is by having the best customer service, or by offering novel products/services, or by utilizing key strategic differentiators, it is always important for a company to stay progressively innovative. One of the main ways to do that is to effectively utilize novel technology, and a technology roadmap can help guide you. Without such a plan, the competition is likely to be more advanced technologically, to effectively use IT to be more successful, and to offer more novel products/services based on their strategic use of technological systems.
8. Your Company’s Technology Environment Has Become Confusing and Inefficient
If your company’s use of IT systems has become a conglomerate of confusion, inefficient IT operations and unproductive daily workflows, it is likely you have no strategic plan in place. This lack of efficiency is the ultimate outcome of not having a plan to use IT components in a way that benefits the bottom/top line of the enterprise in the long-term, and according to the overarching business model.
Essentially, when a company’s technology has evolved over time without a strategic plan, the end result is inefficient processes, ineffective IT operations, multiple sources of data (inefficient data and storage practices), a lack of secure platforms (due to a lack of a cyber security roadmap), networking issues (an increase in required maintenance work), inappropriate enterprise software suites, and more, all of which ultimately affects the bottom line of the business.
Using Technology Successfully in Business Requires a Good Plan
There are a number of signs indicating that a company’s performance can be greatly enhanced by crafting and implementing a robust technology roadmap. Such a blueprint allows an enterprise to maximize its ROI on technology systems, while ensuring that IT systems are being used in the most efficient manner in the short-term and in the long-term. Such a roadmap helps to act as a visual guide that helps executives, managers and personnel to operate (on a daily basis) in a way that helps the organization to meet its ultimate goals.
A technology roadmap helps an organization to strategically use IT systems to solve their most pressing issues, and helps enterprises to stay ahead of competitors, to plan out how to use novel technology, to project IT costs and overhead in the future, to align organizational goals with the acquired IT systems, to remain compliant with legislations in the future, to scale in an optimal manner, and to negate inefficient use of IT systems.
Bottom line: a technology roadmap is a must for all businesses that seek to remain competitive in today’s digital world. What it is and when to craft and implement one are equally important to the success of a business.