As your organization scales, it will also have to adapt to changing needs of an ever-evolving marketplace as well. From emerging technologies to process management and even research and development, it’s crucial to have the flexibility to manage disruptions and to future-proof your business to retain a competitive advantage within your industry.

The businesses that can weather any market pivots are the ones who can plan ahead and make well-informed decisions. However, planning is often an activity involving much guesswork. Thus, it’s vital to have a clear technology roadmap so that your organization will survive any changes and also power through them.

What is a technology roadmap?

It’s not easy to expect innovative technologies to pop up right when you need them. In a perfect world they would, but in the real world, it takes planning. What is a technology roadmap? This is a visual depiction of your IT initiatives, objectives, updates, and more that will help transform your organization into a scalable and agile power house. It addresses key components such as your IT infrastructure, technical resources, and plans for innovation.

It’s vital to describe the “what,” “why,” and “when” before focusing on the “how” to ensure you can eventually add value to your external and internal customers. With the right managed IT services partner, you don’t have to create your technology roadmap alone.

Let's consider how a sample technology roadmap might look. It may represent an integration rollout for the next year. Each schedule of work such as a cloud-hosted data center or automated processes will belong to a functional group such as services or architecture. In addition, the scheduling of each initiative should be aligned with your annual business goals, forecasting, and available resources.

Further, it’s essential to connect strategy with IT work and measure your KPIs against your objectives. An effective technology roadmap has strategy at the center of it all.

In addition, a technology roadmap will detail every tech initiative you would like your organization to have. For instance, your roadmap should describe current technologies available to the workforce right now and also those that are incoming.

Invariably, your technology roadmap is not a static document. It should act as responsive to the evolving environment of your organization. To illustrate, if one of your data centers or servers fail, your roadmap should incorporate the need to find a new technology partner.

Fortunately, you can design your technology roadmap so that it is as robust or straightforward as you like. Nonetheless, many organizations choose to partner with an experienced IT consultant to create their technology roadmaps because it should go beyond a checklist of IT systems and applications. Moreover, technology roadmaps offer the ability to track whether your strategic tech goals are aligned with the company’s overall vision. Also, as the market changes and as your business needs change so too will your technology roadmap. As a result, you can access a living document that supports your objectives.

Why you need a technology roadmap

Your technology roadmap serves as a visual depiction of your strategy to deploy new platforms and solutions while maintaining your current ones. In addition, it helps to give your teams and stakeholders a clear picture of how everyone can reach their IT end objectives simultaneously, with a path for doing so. Other pertinent features of a technology roadmap, include:

  • Presents straightforward details of your current IT capacity and how they are connected to business results
  • Describes plans for mitigating current IT issues
  • Maps out any potential or current weaknesses with your IT infrastructure
  • Aligns business priorities for cross-functional teams.
  • Creates a strategy for ongoing digital transformation
  • Focuses on cost-cutting initiatives by removing redundant and outdated legacy technologies
  • Provides a plan for deploying technologies that meet current and future needs
  • Addresses the significance of cyber security

Who can use a technology roadmap?

Has conflict ever arisen when it comes to prioritizing technological investment? When different teams have different priorities, it can be tough for them to see eye-to-eye. But a technology roadmap can give you the final word — and it’s tough to argue with hard data.

Are you lacking a means to manage the changing technological needs of your business? For example, if you’re still using local software when a cloud-based solution might be better, without a technology roadmap to highlight the age of your systems, the issue could fly under the radar.

You’d be forgiven for assuming that technology roadmaps are only suitable for companies in highly technical industries. But in reality, they’re actually pretty handy for almost any business.

After all, with online sales in the US predicted to reach 4.8 trillion dollars by the year 2021, technology really needs to be at the heart of all modern businesses. And a technology roadmap essentially sets the stage for any of a company’s digital operations.

Whether it’s managing your customers and prospects with a CRM system, or deploying a new cloud-based email system to all employees — every one of these activities can (and should) be listed and prioritized on a your technology roadmap.

If you’ve ever had an employee ask when the next product update is due, or you’ve heard someone complaining that an internal system is slow or unreliable, a technology roadmap can definitely deliver value.

Optimize your technology roadmap

Every organization has unique needs. Roadmaps can be customized to suit your imperatives and the audience you are presenting to. Technology roadmaps commonly include a mix of these key components:

  • Resources
  • Training
  • Risk factors
  • Status reports
  • Goals and initiatives
  • New system capabilities
  • Release plans
  • Milestones

Release plans focus on enhancing the systems to support the new capabilities that are needed by the business. Releases are generally very predictable and are scheduled months in advance. Releases are also communicated broadly throughout the organization.

Milestones are key accomplishments achieved during the technology development process. Tracking milestones allow the stakeholders using the systems to understand the progress towards the long-term goal, at points throughout the project. Milestones are typically tagged to specific dates and treated as performance targets to ensure the organization is on track.

Goals and initiatives represent the achievements that you are hoping to achieve through technology solutions. Specifically, the goals will focus on the business capabilities that are enabled by the technology, as well as what will be required to maintain it going forward. Initiatives are the big themes of work that will help you achieve those goals.

New system capabilities are what will be provided through the enhanced technology systems. For example, adding customer asset tracking to a CRM system will offer greater insight to several business units.

Risk factors represent internal and external barriers that may prevent the organization from achieving the goals and milestones noted in the technology plan. These may include limitations of the technology itself, as well as broader market conditions that present a difficulty for the organization.

Status reports are an important and necessary part of the technology roadmap to keep everyone informed. Delayed implementation of one key system will affect the plans for business units that were depending on it. For example, a business wanting to introduce a new partner discount plan for their channel cannot proceed until systems are enhanced to handle the new discounting framework.

Resources detail the people needed to implement and maintain the systems once they are in place. IT groups must plan to simultaneously roll out new functionality as well as update legacy systems as needed. This creates cross-functional dependencies between multiple groups.

Training will spell out the type of guidance necessary for the internal team to support the system for the actual users. Training can apply to a new system that is being implemented for the first time or enhancements to a current system already in widespread use.

How to create a basic technology roadmap

A useful technology roadmap must carry these core traits. It should be:

Clear: Although you want to make sure that your technology or IT roadmap is thorough, including the key components discussed above, it should also be digestible. Minimize the amount of text on your initial view and color-code your tasks to make your technology roadmap understandable at a glance and provide clear explanations to best translate your strategy.

Realistic: Your IT or technology roadmap won’t be useful to anyone if it’s based on unreasonable deadlines or leaves out major tasks within your processes. Be realistic about how much work is involved, how long projects will take, and how much you can afford monetarily to take on as you add projects into your roadmap.

Evolving: Technology roadmaps should align with your company’s strategy and objectives and help your IT department plan for the future—but that means that the roadmap will continuously change to match new initiatives and challenges.

Shareable: You will need to include various stakeholders as you develop and finalize your technology roadmap, including IT, product managers, project managers, operations, engineering, legal, or something else. So it’s important to use a tool that allows you to easily collaborate with all these parties. A shareable technology roadmap will also help you communicate the established vision to anyone involved with execution, reducing any chances for future implementation problems.

Make sure you revisit your roadmap consistently, and update your living document to reflect any changes. On the other hand, consider working with a managed IT services partner that can offer expertise on making your technology roadmap a defining component of your IT strategy.

Final thought

If your business has been looking for a way to organize your IT infrastructure, align your cross-team goals, and ensure everyone’s pulling in the same direction — a technology roadmap might be just the ticket. However, it's not always easy to complete without experience. Contact SSI today, let’s start on your technology roadmap together!