Information Technology is critical to an organization’s success in modern times. Yet, too often we tend to get comfortable with what we have inherited or have in place today. Yes, IT is concerned with growth, and costs and will “shrink” on demand, but does anyone know where IT is headed? The costs question is directly related to at least two other questions that not every IT department asks:
- Where do we [IT] want to be in 3 years? In 5 years? In 10 years?
- If we continue to do what we do today, will we get there?
The good news is, IT is getting wiser. IT knows the importance of strategy. Strategic thinking has made its way from textbooks to the real world. Today, IT leaders work with businesses to provide direction that translates to a strategy, which leads to a plan. A technology roadmap is a special kind of plan. Here is the Wikipedia definition:
“A technology roadmap is a plan that matches short-term and long-term goals with specific technology solutions to help meet those goals. It is a plan that applies to a new product or process, or to an emerging technology.”
Some will differentiate between product roadmaps and technology roadmaps. For our purposes, we will stick to implementation of IT technologies in a typical organization.
What Drives a Technology Roadmap?
Technology roadmaps are only plausible when the goals are clear. The roadmaps are only as valuable as the areas of interest in the business. So, from an IT perspective, the rubber meets the road when we know:
- How business applications are preparing for tomorrow’s challenges?
- Which infrastructure changes will maximize the value to the business?
This gives a roadmap its purpose.
From there on, it is a matter of gaining a good understanding of “what is” and “what can be.” In each focus area, the IT team must evaluate the technology trends and uncertainties, relating that back to the current state and skills in the organization.
- Do we know what else is out there?
- Do we have what it takes to get there?
This gives a roadmap its framework.
What Can Happen Without a Technology Roadmap?
Without a technology roadmap, organizations carry unaddressed costs and risks due to outdated strategies and quick fixes that resemble patches in a quilt. Technology roadmaps bring consensus and improved planning, budgeting & coordination.
As technology evolves, so does the roadmap. An outdated technology roadmap can be almost as harmful as not having one at all. Sedentary strategies mean organizations are likely to fall victim to unplanned costs and reduced value to the business. It is, therefore, critical to setup a recurring review period where key stakeholders refresh and revise the map as business requirements continue to transform.
Stay tuned for the next part of this two-part series, when we dive into the steps needed to create your own technology roadmap.