April 18, 2017
In the first part of our two part series on technology roadmaps, we discussed the various reasons why it is important for a business to create a roadmap in the first place. The business world revolves around and is entirely dependent upon technology, and technology is in a constant state of innovation and change. By preparing a technology roadmap every six to eighteen months, a business can forecast their needs, plan for changes in the business, and deploy the right technology at the right time.
Our first article covered the “what” and the “why” of technology roadmaps, but in our conclusion, we’re going to focus on the “how.”
How to Write a Technology Roadmap
Setting Goals: Growing or Shrinking Businesses
Technology roadmaps should have a goal. It doesn’t need to be a grand overhaul of the department or a transformation of the data center, but there should be some achievement at the end that you can put your finger on.
However, the goal of the roadmap is going to be influenced by the trajectory of the business. Is the business growing or shrinking? Understanding where your business is today is essential to planning for where your business will be in the future. From there, you can work to find an achievable goal for the roadmap.
If profits are shrinking and this business decline is expected to continue throughout the length of your roadmap, you have a very specific goal. There is unlikely to be any money in the budget for new purchases, equipment, or applications. Instead, the role of the roadmap will be preservation. Your job is to maintain the essential applications and hardware, keep all systems online, and preserve IT capabilities as much as possible. Meanwhile, there could be an element of downsizing that occurs during the roadmap or a streamlining of the department to align with the business’s needs.
If the business is growing, you have many more opportunities before you, so your goal is going to be largely determined by what applications, hardware, or capabilities the business needs to stay competitive in the industry or address unique challenges within the business. That goal could be hiring and training several new IT employees, migrating your applications into the cloud, or any other long-term IT pursuit.
Decisions Based on Data
At no point during the planning or execution process should the business leaders or IT department be “guessing” about elements in the roadmap. Your decisions must be based on real data or insights gained from said data. This includes but is not limited to:
- Historical gross and net annual revenue
- Financial projections for the duration of the roadmap
- System utilization stats
- Current storage capacity, consumption, and a projection for when the business will exceed that capacity
- Network speeds and performance
Most of this information will be readily accessible to an IT director, but other data points may require discussions with business executives. As stated in the first part of our series, a technology roadmap requires an ongoing conversation between the business leaders and the IT department to ensure that the goals of the roadmap align with the goals of the business.
Constructing the Roadmap
The roadmap itself is not a complicated document. It is essentially a timeline in which one end represents the IT environment as it currently exists and the other end of the timeline represents what the environment will look like after the goal of the roadmap is achieved.
From there, you must break down your long-term goal into short-term projects, tasks, and milestones. They could consist of hiring a new employee, deploying a new application, restructuring the VM ecosystem, and so on. For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to these items as “tasks.”
Once you have written out your task list to the best of your knowledge, arrange it on the timeline and assign tasks to different personnel on the team based on skillset and job role.
As simple as that instruction sounds, that’s the core of the roadmapping process. However, there are numerous factors that will influence how your roadmap is actually executed that must be taken into consideration.
Factors Affecting Your Roadmap and Common Challenges
Business Acquisitions or Sales: If the business is positioning itself to acquire another business or sell itself, this will unsurprisingly impact your roadmapping process. Even if you know that the purchase or sale will take place, it will still be difficult to account for this radical change in the business. If you do not know who the buyer or acquired company will be, you cannot know what kind of IT environment you will soon be inheriting. Keep lines of communication open with the business leaders and make sure these events are on your radar as soon as possible.
Researching Product Alternatives: If your technology roadmap includes deploying a new application, it is important to do your research. The technology industry is filled with startups, major developers, and middling companies that may all offer products with overlapping functionality. Finding the right application for your business requires due diligence.
Policy and Procedure Reviews: Are your policies and procedures scalable and ready to meet the demands of the growing business? Do you have a disaster recovery solution? Will your clients be demanding a disaster recovery solution in the future? Refining the structure of the IT department and the disaster recovery plan may be goals of the technology roadmap in-and-of-themselves, or if not, there are sure to factor into any long-term plan.
Scalability: Related to the policy and procedure review, a technology roadmap needs to factor into the scalability of the applications in the environment. Will the goal of the roadmap stretch existing applications beyond their reasonable scalability? The goal of the roadmap itself must also be scalable. Otherwise, you may be finding yourself starting all over again in a couple years.
Outside Consultants and 3rd Parties
Consultants can play an integral role in your roadmapping process. Whether they help with a current-state analysis of the environment or take on tasks along the way, outside help from experienced consultants can make the entire process go more smoothly. When searching for a technology consultant to draft a roadmap, consider the following factors:
- Experience and Certifications: The consultant must have advanced certifications and an engineering team with the experience to complete necessary tasks.
- Technology Partners: You want to look for consultants with a diverse set of partner relationships in the industry. A narrow focus in the industry narrow the available solutions.
- Transparency and Good Communication: The consultant must have a policy of transparency in their consultative relationships. If information cannot be shared openly and the consultant does not take the time to understand the needs of the business, the final roadmap can diverge from what is actually needed.
A Roadmap to Success
Success in the technology world requires an open mind and a good plan, and that is exactly what a roadmap provides. There is almost certainly the perfect application, equipment, or cloud deployment out there for your business, but the greater the rush, the greater the risk. A detailed and thoughtful roadmap will yield the best results with the least disruption every time.
Our eBook The Ultimate Guide To Creating Your Technology Roadmap is a great first step in putting a roadmap in place. Read it today:
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