You Know You Need a Technology Roadmap – But What Exactly Should It Look Like?
Like most businesses, no matter how big or small, your success likely depends greatly on the use of technology. Your IT infrastructure allows you to collect and analyze valuable data, communicate within the company and outside the company quickly and effectively, and run your operations as efficiently as possible. Considering the facts that your company’s IT needs are likely to change, that your customers’ needs will change, and that technology itself will change over the years, create a technology roadmap that addresses both your short-term and long-term goals through the use of technological solutions.
What is a Technology Roadmap?
A technology roadmap is essentially a plan in which short-term and long-term business goals are matched with specific technology solutions. Technology roadmaps will also include and detail release plans, training needs, risk factors, status reports, milestones, and more. A good technology roadmap can help companies survive potentially challenging times as well as drive your company towards having a more efficient and sustainable business. When creating a technology roadmap, there are three main goals that are usually addressed:
- Aligning IT investments with business objectives
- Planning the implementation of strategic IT initiatives
- Enabling efficient ongoing IT operations
It’s worth noting that a “technology roadmap” is very broad. There are many different types of technology roadmaps that address more specific elements of your company’s IT needs and goals. Smaller companies may be able to create a more general technology roadmap for their business, but bigger corporations have more complicated IT infrastructures, resulting in more IT needs to be addressed. This requires larger businesses to create more specific technology roadmaps, such as the following:
- Application Roadmap – For your business to continue running successfully, your staff needs access to the right tools. An application roadmap should evaluate your entire application portfolio to determine what tools your company depends on for every facet of your business. You may want to use an application rationalization tool, which makes it easier to identify what applications should be kept, replaced, retired, or consolidated. This, in turn, allows you to accurately identify current and future needs and to outline what types of new applications or upgrades will be needed.
- Software Roadmap – Although the terms software and applications are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two. Applications refer to programs designed for the end user, while systems software refers to programs used by a computer. All applications are a type of software, but not all types of software are applications. For example, device drivers are types of software that are not applications. Because of this difference, creating a systems software roadmap as well as an application roadmap is important.
- Hardware Roadmap – A hardware roadmap should not only take into consideration the need to update outdated hardware, but also the need to invest in new hardware to keep up with the company’s growth (and the expanded staff’s need for their own personal computer systems) as well as new business goals that may be implemented in the future.
- DevOps – DevOps is a term used to refer to a set of practices meant to help make a change to a system more time-efficient while maintaining high-quality. At its core, DevOps is a type of roadmap meant to help unify your software development and your IT operations groups and processes. It should address key aspects of the development and delivery process, from code development, integration, and testing to release automation, infrastructure configuration, management, and performance monitoring.
- Internal IT Capabilities – An IT roadmap addresses your internal IT capabilities and needs, meaning your internal systems and processes. This can include plans for new IT capabilities, such as multiple user log-in or email integration to self-service portals and more. IT roadmaps should also include detailed security and compliance plans as well as disaster recovery and operational support strategies.
Bigger companies have to rely on multiple technology roadmaps that are a bit more specific like these to clarify what their present and future IT needs are and more easily establish and meet important milestones.
What Benefits Will It Have for Your Company?
The following are some of the benefits a detailed technology roadmap for your company can offer:
- A roadmap outlines your goals clearly – By outlining your technology goals and aligning them with your business goals, everyone in your company will know exactly what they are working towards and will have more confidence in the fact that a strategy has been laid out.
- A roadmap provides transparency – With a detailed technology roadmap, all of your company’s different departments will be on the same page. This kind of transparency can help to build trust and establish credibility, making it easier to implement new IT solutions when the time comes.
- A roadmap helps ensure efficient operations – Without a technology roadmap, your company may end up investing in IT it doesn’t necessarily need. Even worse, due to a lack of transparency and organization, you may invest in technology for a certain department to meet certain needs that could have been addressed by software or hardware being used in another department. A technology roadmap will help ensure that the IT you invest in will address actual needs and that your company runs as efficiently as possible.
- A roadmap can prevent your company from falling behind – Suddenly finding that your IT systems aren’t addressing your business needs can result in a scramble to invest in hardware or software that can keep your company on schedule to meet its business goals. By aligning your IT needs and goals with your business needs and goals, you will help keep your company from falling behind.
What Audience is the Roadmap Designed For?
A technology roadmap will be most helpful to your IT department as well as upper management.
Reference Document for the IT Department
Generally speaking, your technology roadmap will be the most useful for your IT department. They are the ones who will need to implement new IT solutions and train your staff. Providing them with a roadmap will give them a much clearer idea of what they will be working on in the future and will give them an understanding of what the technology their implementing is supposed to be doing to help address your business goals.
Reporting Document to Management
Management will be able to prepare your staff for changes in technology that will be adopted by your company in the future. A roadmap also lets them know how you are addressing their specific needs both now and in the future. Finally, a roadmap shows management where the company’s resources are going and outlines the reasoning behind the need for certain IT investments, helping to keep them informed about where and why assets are being used.
What Should a Technology Roadmap Look like?
One of the major benefits of a technology roadmap is that it allows you to get an overview of your IT strategy and objectives. If this is outlined in hundreds of pages of text documents, it would defeat the purpose. A technology roadmap should be easy to read.
Technology Roadmaps are Typically in Calendar Form
Technology roadmaps are usually created in a calendar layout. Since a roadmap is supposed to address future IT needs and strategies, a calendar format makes it easy to view when you’ve set different milestones. This allows you to get an overview of both short-term and long-term solutions at a glance.
Although in a calendar format, there are still numerous visual elements that make up a technology roadmap. For example, while the dates of the calendar are listed near the top horizontally (so when you scroll to the right, you’ll go further into the future), the calendar is generally divided into sections that address different parts of your plan.
For example, you may have a section devoted to your IT help desk, your network, or your IT security. Different milestones are then placed in each of these sections under the dates they should be met. These milestones are usually color-coded based on priority. Milestones in red could be a high priority, while those in gray could be a low priority.
Technology Roadmap Example
Many templates are available for free online to help you create your technology roadmaps. Smartsheet offers free templates in an Excel format. Their templates allow for the inclusion of a lot of different elements, which gives you the opportunity to create very detailed roadmaps. However, as a result, there’s a bit of a learning curve when it comes to using their roadmap templates.
Product Plan is another popular source for technology roadmap templates. Their templates have a cleaner look to them, which can make them a bit easier to use. You will need to sign up for a free trial to try out their templates.
Tips for Preparing to Create a Technology Roadmap
The purpose of a technology roadmap is to implement an IT plan that addresses short-term and long-term IT needs and goals. Your roadmap is simply a visual representation of this plan. But simply adding a few IT goals to a calendar isn’t nearly robust enough. You’ll want to make sure your plan is comprehensive and detailed. Begin by identifying your strategic objectives and defining your functional needs and priorities so you can plan for the future and establish a realistic timeline.