Roadmapping has the potential to provide an organization with the necessary tools and methods to significantly improve their ability to create, optimize, and “control” their own future. When used successfully, roadmapping can bridge the gap between strategic thinking and day-to-day decision making, including portfolio management. When cross-functional team members participate in the roadmapping process and are accountable for maintaining their content and relationships with other functions on a continuous basis, communication and priority synchronization is maximized.1
However, achieving success in this area is not trivial! Organizations often struggle with significant culture change and new functional responsibilities. The idea that an organization’s strategic plan can be reduced to roadmap elements which are then combined to produce integrated, synchronized, forward-looking views may seem like an impossible challenge; the scope of such an effort could be overwhelming. However, if the key implementation barriers are broken down one by one and managed in a manner where expectations and progress are measured realistically, any organization can be put on the path toward successful enterprise roadmapping.
Fortunately, roadmapping has a cumulative value effect; the entire enterprise does not need to be roadmapped before value is returned. Roadmapping even small elements of the enterprise will immediately improve communication and priority synchronization for that section of the company. Below are a few suggestions for organizations seeking to overcome barriers to successful enterprise roadmapping.
New process implementations, particularly those involving significant culture change like enterprise roadmapping, require both a clear vision of what success will look like, as well as a realistic time frame in which that vision can be achieved. These ultimate goals and timeframes can then be broken down into measurable, intermediate goals and timeframes, and converted into a visible maturity path for the overall implementation. A fully integrated enterprise roadmapping may be the ultimate goal, but an organization may also consider intermediate goals such as roadmapping at the functional, program, departmental, and finally division level.
In each case, the scope of the implementation would be clearly defined (i.e. which specific programs or functional areas would participate first and so on, as well as the specific required actions to take the effort to only the next stage). In this way, progress will continue to be manageable and measureable while the overall program is driven by the intermediate successes at each stage.
The most daunting challenge of enterprise roadmapping is the sheer scope of the system. The most successful roadmapping implementations have started with small areas of concentration, which are used to create test cases that can then be extended to the entire enterprise. Once established, the roadmapping implementation can be grown “organically” at a pace that makes sense and does not over tax available resources. In this instance, the focus of the initial implementation may be a few key growth programs or key innovation areas following the maturity path approach described above. Cross-functional sessions can be held to help create the initial roadmap architecture and the associated guidelines for using these roadmaps.
Participants in these sessions can then continue to develop adjacent roadmap elements, representing other strategic elements under their functional control. For example, a technology leader may only represent those elements which pertain to the growth area under consideration in the original cross-functional meeting but after the meeting would be able to create additional roadmap elements for those strategic elements under his/her control that were not discussed relative to this growth area.
As these participants are pulled into additional roadmapping sessions, they would continue to refine and modify their elements until their entire area or scope of responsibility is covered. Over time, the breadth and depth of the enterprise roadmapping system will grow to become an integral part of the planning process and critical to decision-making.
1Whalen, P. J. 2007. “Strategic and Technology Planning on a Roadmapping Foundation.” Research-Technology Management, May-June, pp. 40 – 51.
About the Author
Phil Whalen is Principal of Whalen Management Group, which provides practical Technology and Strategy Management consulting including roadmap architecture definition and implementation. Phil has had a variety of new product development, technology and strategy management positions in large global companies including AlliedSignal/Honeywell Inc. and recently was Chief Technology Officer of Invensys, plc. He has a Ph.D. in Ceramic Science and Engineering from Rutgers University.