We have all heard of and seen roadmaps at corporations. Roadmaps are the output of closed door, senior leadership, month long activities that results in an arrowed Gantt chart. Roadmaps are usually done in silos where Business and IT are separated. You have all seen the chart that shows the 10-15 projects over the next 2-5 years. They are usually color coded but probably lack a reference to the color meaning. This is the 'old' roadmap and it has been changing. Roadmaps are no longer closed door activities and they do not solely rest with senior leadership to provide.

Old vs. New Roadmap

The roadmap definition is changing. The old roadmap is fine for aligning how projects will fall. Having these plans is critical to business success. And although not ideal, these plans can be built in silos with integration to other departments after the plan is set. The new roadmap takes success to the next level. The new roadmap is a ‘Joint business and IT venture to align the business process vision, technology strategies, and execution management into a cohesive view of projects and initiatives providing expected benefits across a timeline'.

Path to New Roadmap

To view a roadmap as a joint effort has taken organizations many years to achieve and some are still not there. The change happens as IT leaders spend more time in the business they provide support. Business leaders take ownership in process improvements even if the enhancements are technology-based. Business and IT are working more closely today to manage data, meet customer requirements, respond to business process problems, and innovative new services or products. Organizations are realizing that business transformation requires cross-functional teams working in concert. This integration has led us to the point where roadmaps can be designed jointly using all available data and incorporate strategies and visions of IT and Business units.

Process to Build the Roadmap

Corporations know they need business transformations to stay competitive and profitable. They know where they have weakness in business processes and across the IT landscape. The process to define the roadmap capitalizes on this knowledge by designing the roadmap from the bottom-up and top-down. At the bottom, a current state inspection of processes and technology is performed to identify weakness and threats. Included are business and system requirements that are not being fulfilled, inefficient process integration, and technology inhibitors. At the top, visions are extracted by senior leadership to understand their motives and goals. Current operational and project-based initiatives are analyzed to understand dependencies to Vision. Altogether, the current state findings along with the vision and on-going initiatives are combined together to define a future state that meets the needs of various stakeholders while considering potential risks with the implementation effort, culture impact, and customer impact.

Roadmap Considerations

There are some important themes to consider when developing a roadmap. There is a blog written by Kyle Fondren (available here) that does a nice job outlining the components of a roadmap. Because of that blog, I will only topline some of the most important aspects. The roadmap's ultimate benefit is that the projects and initiatives are structured to build a complete system that will provide the discipline to achieve sustainable benefits. Single projects that are not tied to larger business transformations often 1) only return temporary results before processes degrade back to their previous inefficient state or 2) are not adequately aligned to the business strategy and fail to gain adoption.

CapTech manages roadmaps with planning, execution, and evaluation.

During roadmap planning, the following factors are considered when aligning projects on the roadmap: short and long-term initiatives, prioritization of projects, predecessor relationships between initiatives, resource availability, and benefit capture. During roadmap execution, projects are managed as they start and end in a choreographed sequence aimed at achieving desired results. The evaluation of the roadmap happens at a set of stage gates where benefits are captured and tracked in a scorecard.

The Future for Roadmaps

The arrowed Gantt roadmaps that we know so well will not go away. Organizations that are running the engine and doing ‘build to last' projects will achieve some value with that method of a roadmap. The organizations that are active in innovation, new product ventures, mergers and acquisitions, and large business transformational efforts will benefit from a more comprehensive and complete roadmap. This is the type of roadmap that is ‘built for change' by knowing where the organization currently is from the bottom-up and where the organization wants to go from the top-down.