Roadmapping is hardly new; Motorola introduced it in the U.S. during the 1980s and Philips was on a similar timescale in Europe. As a process, it has gained momentum in recent years for a number of reasons such as:

  1. Companies are increasingly complex, global organisations seeking to better understand and control R&D investments;
  2. Shorter product lifecycles with more frequent adjustments; and
  3. An increased reliance on suppliers, which raises the need for long-term strategic planning and tactical capabilities around managing the entire supply chain.

Initially adopted by technologists within large organisations, roadmapping often did not include other functions such as marketing and product management.  Over the last few years, however, roadmapping has been increasingly used for functional areas beyond technology as a strategic planning tool.  For example, marketing departments have been more involved in the product planning process and CEOs have demanded roadmaps as deliverables for board meetings and gate decision meetings.

At the forefront of contemporary strategic planning is roadmapping.  Many companies find that because they are both geographically and functionally isolated, it is very difficult to collaborate effectively. Only as they move forward in time and clarity arises do these companies realize the need to refine portfolio management, product development and project management.  Roadmapping gives executives and R&D teams the necessary high-level view of new products and the ability to align market and customer requirements with products and services, as well as appropriate technologies, to facilitate production.

Benefits of Roadmapping

Roadmapping has provided countless benefits. Organisations that have implemented roadmapping into their planning have been able to:

  •  Reduce R&D costs
  •  Increase revenues from new technology
  •  Identify emerging opportunities more easily
  •  Evaluate and select courses of action with the most profit potential
  •  Build consensus and promote greater collaboration across multiple business functions
  •  Keep track of competition more easily
  •  Improve long-term forecasting based on solid, accurate facts
  •  Eliminate the need to reorganize when there are leadership changes
  •  React to changing market conditions more quickly
  •  Improve customer satisfaction, retention and loyalty
Often by introducing a roadmapping process, organisations achieve a shared vision. It is the power of this collaborative perspective that reaps the greatest rewards. Previously untapped knowledge within the different functional departments is used to make more effective planning decisions. Gaps and opportunities are identified and anticipated in advance of development, making it more likely that the right products will be available to meet the market requirements at the right time. Equally as important, roadmapping gives advance warning of R&D projects or technological developments that should be killed before they have consumed too much cost and effort.

Best Practices

  • Establish an executive champion and core team
  • Apply roadmapping to a specific area/division before enterprise-wide implementation
  • Unify strategy enterprise-wide
  • Respond quickly to emerging market trends and position for market advantage
  • Make decisions based on identified project and technology interdependencies (HR, financials and new advancements)
Leverage comprehensive view of roadmaps to:
  • Identify gaps, poor ROI projects
  • Chart expected market needs
  • Respond quickly to emerging market trends
  • Position for market advantage
  • Anticipate and/or utilize technology breakthroughs that will have a substantial impact on NPD
  • Use appropriate roadmaps with stakeholders, decision-makers and consumers/customers
Implementation of roadmapping should not be taken lightly; an executive champion and a core team committed to developing the process are necessary to make it a success. Initially, the process should be applied to specific parts of the business in order to show some early success and reveal possible challenges.  Doing so allows the company to address these challenges early and in a smaller, more controlled setting. This sets the stage for a more successful implementation across the organisation and helps embed the value of the process and outcomes within the company.

The mid-term goal is organisation-wide implementation of roadmaps.  Third-party assistance in facilitating and jump-starting the adoption of the roadmapping process is advisable. Software also plays a significant role in enabling efficient collaboration and helps to maintain and grow the roadmapping process.

The ultimate goal is to regularly share appropriate roadmaps with stakeholders.  Roadmap visibility ensures an ever-improved understanding of accomplishments achieved and how to fulfil market requirements over time, creating long-term competitive advantage and sustained growth for your company.

To learn more about roadmaps, view "Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Process of Roadmapping"

About the Author

Mr. Chris Creighton Thomas, Director, Roadmapping Technology Ltd. Roadmapping Technology are strategic roadmapping facilitators and a value-added reseller of Sopheon’s strategic product planning software, Vision Strategist™.

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