The term strategic roadmapping implies a well-integrated and on-going company practice that systematically links market and technology evolution into a compelling product portfolio.  How many companies actually achieve this level of roadmapping?  Few, it appears.

Nonetheless, roadmapping does add value to the vast majority of companies who are using this technique.  The perceived value is related to roadmapping maturity.  Therefore, a careful consideration of your company’s maturity level may identify a path forward to greater success and sustainability.

Through discussions with over 200 practicing roadmappers at the middle and senior management levels, we have identified six maturity levels – five of which are company-specific and the sixth which reflects a network of companies collaborating on roadmapping.

Fig. 1. Through identifying and understanding your organization’s roadmapping maturity level, your organization is better able to chart a path forward to greater success and sustainability. (Petrick 2008)

Ad Hoc (Level 1) – Roadmapping is a one-off effort which is typically undertaken in response to a project planning task. Here roadmapping is done by an individual or a small group with a specific target in mind. Once the roadmap is developed, the group generally moves on to another task.

Consistent (Level 2) – Roadmapping is done by several groups on different types of applications and at different points in the organization. At this level, the roadmapping effort is supported by training and some formal methodologies. Though roadmapping is still a stand alone activity, different groups are beginning to work together and attempt to link the outputs of their roadmapping efforts to other decision-making practices.

Integrated (Level 3) – The roadmapping effort of several groups is linked formally to other decision-making within the new product development space, particularly around technology development and project selection. Direct linkages to formal planning processes like Stage-Gate are also common. To achieve these linkages typically requires senior management support and a high-level champion.

Advanced (Level 4) – Roadmapping now helps inform other longer term planning efforts, including scenario development and analysis, and technology reuse. Inputs to the roadmaps come from groups within the organization as well as from customers and suppliers. The goal here is to use roadmaps to think more strategically across the company and its collaborators.

Company Optimizing (Level 5) – At this level, in addition to the tactical linkages to project management and the strategic linkages to scenarios and technology reuse, decision-makers are using information gleaned from roadmapping to assess the risk of their portfolio and to determine their partnership strategies by identifying skill/capability gaps. Executives and managers use roadmapping inputs to help reduce the impact of technology delays on the critical path by assessing alternatives across their collaborators.

Network Optimizing (Level 6) – At the highest maturity level, common roadmaps are guiding decision-making at companies across the network. Each company is using roadmaps to help articulate strategy, and across the network these same roadmaps are helping plan make versus buy decisions at multiple points. Because of these common roadmaps (or at least many common elements on the roadmaps), organizations within the network attain a level of situational awareness rarely available.

Most managers and executives hope to achieve at least an Advanced practice (Level 4), with an ultimate goal of Company Optimizing (Level 5). However, most also say that their own company’s roadmapping practices fall at about the Consistent or Integrated levels (Level 2 or 3). In seeking to achieve higher results from roadmapping, caution should be used before automatically believing that a higher level of roadmapping maturity is always better (or conversely that a lower level of maturity is somehow less valuable).

Strategic Roadmapping

The roadmapping practices a company seeks to develop should match its strategic needs. If the goals of roadmapping are to improve technology investment decisions and planning, then a Consistent or Integrated practice (Level 2 or 3) may be most appropriate. Five things to consider in aligning your roadmapping maturity level to your company’s strategic goals and mission are:

  • Across all levels, the value of roadmapping improves with input from customers and suppliers with the input becoming more formal as the levels increase.
  • Companies are unlikely to get beyond a Consistent practice (Level 2) without high-level support for the process.
  • If your company is not asking questions of your roadmaps and using the information contained in them to inform decisions, you are unlikely to go beyond Ad Hoc (Level 1).
  • If your company is in a relatively stable environment, an Integrated practice (Level 3) is a reasonable goal.
  • If collaboration within your supplier network is not an important piece of your competitive advantage, then Network Optimizing (Level 6) will require more costs than the benefits it produces.

About the Author

Irene J. Petrick, Ph.D. is a Professor of Practice and Director of Penn State’s Enterprise Informatics and Integration Center. She has over 25 years of experience in technology development, planning and management, and is an internationally recognized roadmapping expert. She has published over 95 articles and presentations, and has received project funding of over $5 million over the past five years. To date, more than 65 companies have benefited from her expertise and insight through executive education and through direct company consulting, including 15 Fortune 100 and an additional 17 Fortune 500 companies.

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