The uncertain economic times that all businesses face continue to drive them to undergo digital transformation. With multiple market disruptions, geopolitical challenges and the ongoing fallout from COVID-19 and its impact on supply chains and working patterns, every company needs to be a digital business to maximize productivity and efficiency.
With digital transformation investment hitting $2.4 trillion by 2024, the race is on for all businesses to adopt the IT that can give them a competitive advantage, while supporting hybrid working and the arrival of smart analytics.
Digital transformation helps rationalize business processes, improve company collaboration and culture and deliver stronger customer experiences to boost engagement and sales in an increasingly competitive landscape.
For any business, most start off with a few digital applications, likely payroll, human resources for illness and holiday booking and team/project management and collaboration. As the business grows, more people who are the key to success of any digital business improvement) need IT and technology to support them. Any manual tasks become unwieldy and many can be automated, while managing longer supply chains, more complex contracts and production processes all benefit from the use of technology.
As part of any digital effort, all businesses need a technology roadmap to guide them in delivering the services that will help catch up with the competition when it comes to maximizing revenue, improving product or service time-to-market, boosting quality or meeting cost targets.
This comprehensive guide covers the following chapters:
- What is a technology roadmap?
- 6 types of technology roadmap
- Why you need a technology roadmap
- 8 key components of effective technology roadmaps
- How to build a technology roadmap for your digital transformation
- Final thoughts
What is a technology roadmap?
A technology roadmap is a strategic tool to align business goals and processes with technology solutions and applications. With a well-aligned roadmap, businesses will cope with internal growth and operational scaling, deal with rising numbers of customers, adopting new technologies as and when they’re beneficial to the company.
The types of technology roadmap
As with any effort involving IT, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. There are several different types of roadmap that may better align your current systems and requirements with the evolving world of IT.
One typical example of a technology roadmap is the Internal IT Roadmap. Variations of this can cover the overall adoption of infrastructure, DevOps and software/services plan for the business, ensuring that the organization has the tools to deliver on its overall strategy, enabling IT to deliver key applications and making sure workers have the tools and services they require.
Flat businesses, including startups and SMBs, don’t need extensive legacy hardware solutions, so will focus on fast-evolving cloud solutions and tools that deliver immediate business benefits.
Larger companies and enterprises may need several roadmaps, including ones that model the business architecture, IT infrastructure, DevOps and hardware procurement. They can help manage the selection of new technologies and plan their rollout to the business, taking into account existing skills within the business, security, training and compatibility requirements.
Architecture roadmaps are key for complex businessess. They help describe the organization’s current and desired IT state by creating a gap analysis to establish what they need to purchase or upgrade to create a prioritized list of action items. This list will be delivered in the most effective order to drive business improvement or transformation.
As part of these efforts, other roadmaps such as a hardware procurement roadmap support budgeting efforts by identifying the needs of the business for IT hardware, evaluating the best-fit solutions and suppliers and then creating a timeline for purchase and delivery to ensure the business has the hardware it needs for users and IT to function. They also make sure IT can enable support for digital initiatives, driving cloud or data center adoption as needed and mobility or remote working efforts.
These roadmaps can be delivered in a highly visual way to provide clarity across the business and ensure that progress is easy to track across all levels of the business. All firms should have a technology roadmap as they expand, with key roles in charge of delivery and monitoring IT product evolution to ensure the business is ready to take advantage of new features, and not be left with out-of-date solutions that limit operations.
Why you need a technology roadmap
With all businesses facing many challenges and upheavals in recent years, the need to be flexible and adaptable to changing circumstances is key to survival and success. Those unprepared to evolve with business IT will find themselves struggling to make the right choice, while those with a strong technology roadmap will benefit from:
- Visibility: Having a clear idea of the current IT footprint, which areas are under stress or underutilized and how they align with the overall business strategy will help prioritize what needs upgrading or replacing and when to do it.
- Cost savings: Identify ways to save cost by eliminating multiple older services that can be done by one modern cloud suite, and removing older hardware.
- Increased productivity: Drive productivity improvements by speeding up processes and enabling workers to focus on higher-value tasks.
- Strong security and compliance: Improve your IT security with modern applications that offer improved encryption and have stronger access rules. Modern apps also ensure that regulatory and compliance requirements are met.
- Less downtime: Reduce IT downtime thanks to more reliable tools and services.
- Stronger collaboration: Identify and eliminate data silos and encourage collaboration between teams and departments.
- Better client relationships: Enable your business to work better with clients and partners, sharing data or projects.
8 key components of effective technology roadmaps
Each part of the technology roadmap helps the business identify how it will achieve its short and long-term goals through improved operational performance and the smarter use of data and collaboration. It all starts with the current state of the business, and a list of the regular requests workers and teams are making for new applications or services that will help them do their jobs better.
Based on those requests, budget and business needs, the roadmap can feature the following components:
1. Business goals
What does the business hope to achieve with its new technology? These goals should be clearly listed with measurable and achievable indicators of success. They will form the basis of the overall roadmap and inform the choices made in other components, such as “new CRM with cross-team marketing/sales collaboration by year end” or “75% reduction in support tickets and 50% reduction in support costs.”
2. New system/application features and capabilities
Most IT improvements or upgrades are to enable the business to use smarter, integrated applications, either in the cloud or powered by modern on-premises hardware or devices. Typical enterprise roadmaps include new enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relations management (CRMs) or productivity and collaboration tools, perhaps providing AI features to deliver smarter analytics or predictions.
3. IT and other support resources
From IT support teams, power needs for in-house or data center systems to training resources, any new element of the roadmap needs a range of internal or external support to deliver them that must be considered within any budget.
4. App/service release plans
As cloud apps become tools that are updated regularly, even daily, it can be easy to forget about feature release schedules. But when new key features often appear on vendors’ roadmaps, such as AI features, analytics services and improved integrations, you should add them so the business will know when it can take advantage of them.
5. Map milestones to business goals
Identify when key goals need to have been met in the roadmap, and the impact they should have on business operations. This helps to evaluate their success or identify if more work/training is needed to deliver results, and track budget efficiency.
6. Business risk factors
Any change to IT can come with predictable and unpredictable issues. Identify the specific barriers to success, both internally and those that might come from the vendor or third-parties, and consider in a broader sense how issues like compatibility, vulnerabilities and others could derail the roadmap. Have a plan of action to mitigate each.
7. Training plans
While the budget for training plans might appear in resources, checking their success and value is a distinct issues that needs monitoring with its own place on the roadmap. Who needs what training and when, across applications, security, collaboration and other areas should all be scheduled so that no person or team has an app or service they are unfamiliar with.
8. Status reports
Any new business application or web service will come with various dashboards. Your roadmap should have its own, in order to deliver status reports that highlight success progress and alert the appropriate teams to any issues across current deployments or internal/external changes that may affect future plans.
How to build a technology roadmap for your digital transformation
As with the creation of any business roadmap, your digital transformation technology roadmap should start with a blank piece of paper that lists the goals of the business leadership. From there, key roles, cross-functional teams and other stakeholders can map out a set of repeatable and ongoing steps to create an effective and living roadmap that can adapt to changing business or hardware/software needs.
1. List strategic objectives
The business plan should identify key objectives across divisions or teams for the forthcoming years. These are often focused on launching new products, cost reductions or other efficiencies or perhaps reinventing how the business operates. Define them clearly and consider, with thorough research, how the use of technology can deliver those objectives.
2. Plan how the business will operate in the future
Hitting moving targets is something many businesses dislike, but companies need to consider how they’ll be operating in five or more years’ time, and the technology that will be able to support them. Technology like 5G will be inevitably be replaced by 6G, Industry 4.0 is already becoming Industry 5.0 and even relatively mundane productivity apps are already being loaded with artificial intelligence decision-making tools or app creators that can build end-user applications instantly. Consider how your business will work in this environment and be ready to take early advantage of those features that suit your operations.
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3. List your operational needs and prioritize them
With all that in mind, the roadmap should have a prioritized list of what needs to be delivered when to have the greatest business impact, or to improve processes and performance to prove the value of any upgrades and improvements. For each one, list the expected results and any issues that might impact their delivery to the business.
4. Plan the costs and budget requirements
Even in the cloud era, IT is a costly resource for any business. Investment planning is key to understand not only the initial and ongoing investments, but the return on investment (ROI) and potential value of each part of the roadmap.
From simple costs like the number of cloud subscriptions required in a growing business to highly variable ones like cloud computing resources, power requirements for data centers in fluctuating markets and the lifetime costs of devices should all be calculated.
5. Set out realistic goals and time projections
A new CRM or productivity suite won’t magically double your revenue but it can deliver substantial savings and improve staff efficiency and morale. Factor those into achievable goals and plan out reasonable timelines for when any new feature on the roadmap can be delivered. Pick times when suitable training won’t impact other work, and without the risk of a product being instantly outdated to create an ongoing series of business changes that deliver cascading benefits across the organization.
6. Set out responsibilities and reporting lines
Each part of the process needs a person or team in charge of delivery and monitoring progress. They should report to the overall roadmap team and executive leadership on a regular basis to highlight progress and any issues. Changing how teams work requires monitoring, with interventions to ensure people don’t go back to their old habits, while everyone’s place in delivering wider strategic benefits may need to be explained in the face of any short-term issues.
A technology roadmap can be a highly individual creation for any business, even in similar verticals or markets. They reflect the ambitions of the leadership and the pragmatism of IT leaders along with the need to bring a business to modern or future standards of digital business operations.
When planning your technology roadmap, ensure it addresses the needs of every audience within the business, and is focused on the benefits across the organization, not just within a single division or department. Finally, while it is a technology roadmap, the focus should be on making the technology explainable to those beyond the IT department, to whom chatbots and next-generation firewalls are pure jargon.
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