How to develop your business t...
Software development without a roadmap is like driving off a cliff — an undertaking that seriously jeopardizes your product’s life. Here’s how to develop a business technology roadmap that ensures your project safely reaches its final destination.
When people have an idea for a piece of software or an app, they tend to be pretty energized about getting it to market as quickly as possible. It’s exciting to create an app or piece of software no one’s ever imagined or built before. As software developers, we’re usually right there with them.
At some point, though, we need to sit down with clients and give them a sobering reality: software development without a business technology roadmap can be a lot like driving aimlessly. Sure, you get to discover new worlds and experience unexpected adventures, but you also frequently get lost, and can lose enthusiasm for the journey.
What Is A Business Technology Roadmap?
Unlike detailed blueprints that lay out all tasks, deadlines, bug reports, and more along the way, technology roadmaps are high-level visual summaries highlighting a company’s vision or plans.
A technology roadmap feeds the sprint and grooming processes, providing insight into how the product will travel from start to end. It makes it easier for development teams to understand how the product will evolve. It makes near-term decisions that don’t compromise on future work and gains awareness of features which are not working.
Companies can use technology roadmaps to review their internal IT, DevOps, infrastructure, architecture, software, internal system, and hardware procurement policies and procedures with innovation and efficiency in mind. The roadmap helps them define how a new IT tool, process, or technology supports their business strategy and growth and aligns projects with short and long-term goals.
A typical IT roadmap covers everything from requirements to testing and integrations. A development team’s work dictates software or development roadmaps, highlighting tech initiatives, epics, and features while communicating the team’s primary goals.
The Role of a Technology Roadmap in Digital Transformation
Today’s digital transformations focus on three key areas that are customer experience, operational processes, and business models. Whether it’s for a small company or multi-national enterprise, a well-developed business technology roadmap helps companies reach short and long-term digital transformation goals by allowing them to remain strong enough to accommodate changes. Building long-term value in the product and avoid roadblocks and other obstacles.
Because digital transformation is a relatively new concept, it’s often a journey filled with blind spots. On the one hand, the digital transformation process is seen as using technologies to create new or modify existing business models. On the other hand, it’s about companies needing to embrace new cultures, structures, and processes that align with their IT architecture. One thing is for sure that digital transformation is a fundamental change for any company.
Just about every business can benefit from developing their business technology roadmap as part of their digital transformation plan. New digital advances and the opportunity to improve traditional technologies to change customer relationships and employee experiences put businesses on a clear and rewarding path for turning technology into transformation.
Creating A Technology Roadmap To Drive Successful Innovation
Many businesses already have a technology roadmap. The question is whether that map is pointing to where they want to go, or has it only carried them to the present leg of the journey? Are they focused only on existing projects, or are they anticipating future breakthroughs?
The best technology roadmaps continually evolve, adding new destination points and aligning all resources and capabilities behind long-term goals. It’s not an easy process, but a methodical approach helps.
1. IDENTIFY GOALS
Technology roadmaps must integrate long-term goals and visions. It’s often best to start at the end and work backward. For instance, in software development, milestones are often thought of as software releases or new versions of a project. However, with a business roadmap, goals and initiatives also include things like hitting revenue targets or launching in a new region or market, anything that’s a significant result of combined efforts.
2. SEEK INPUT FROM STAKEHOLDERS
For smaller businesses, this often means involving everyone. Including all pertinent stakeholders and decision-makers brings different views and priorities to the table and helps establish a clear direction for where the company is headed. As collaboration is key to most business success, it also increases the chance of the roadmap being implemented.
3. EVALUATE CURRENT SYSTEMS AND CHART A COURSE
All business technology roadmaps include negotiating a budget. Now’s the time to question previous decisions to see if they still align with the company’s vision. For example, a company has the goal of doubling customers, so assumes it must increase hardware capacity to meet it. That can cost significant sums of money. Another approach might be to make strategic changes to the software or combine current tools with custom software, typically a far less expensive strategy.
4. BE OPEN TO CHANGE
Clear vision and a revised budget in hand, it’s now possible to view the business landscape with a critical set of eyes looking. Perhaps a company previously developed a custom app because no existing product satisfied its needs — but now that software exists! The custom software could possibly be retired for the new software that will be supported by someone else.
That makes it possible to use in-house staff to develop new, potentially more profitable products. Sometimes bringing in an outside consultant to audit systems, processes, and teams help identify changes a business can make to support improvements and future initiatives.
5. SET PRIORITIES
Up next is determining what’s critical, blocking, or simple. Items should be prioritized, and continuous feedback should be solicited. Project management tools can simplify the process and ensures items are linked to their dependencies and what needs to be done first is clear.
6. BUILD OUT TIMELINES
Each task or initiative comes with its own level of effort. It’s critical to pull in the right technical people so to get an estimate around each effort. This should not be a long, drawn-out endeavor. Instead, it should be a quick activity that verifies how everyone’s on the same page. Often leadership has items it believes can be implemented quickly, but the team is of the mind it will take much longer to pull off.
7. DEVISE A BUDGET
Once there’s a clear view of what can be worked on, when it can be worked on, and how long it might take to implement, there’s enough information to fashion a budget for each item. Each item’s details should be worked through fully to get an as accurate as possible estimate for what’s needed. Budget decisions can also affect how urgent or necessary an item truly is. Some businesses find they’re better off putting something on the back burner or investing in a service that solves the same problem.
8. VISUALIZE THE ROADMAP
Finally! Project implementation planning can now begin. Each project should be laid out and overlaid with the resources needed for project delivery. If working in software development environment, there’s no need to write out every detail of every feature. Simply focus on high-level component delivery, marketing dates, and other top-level deadlines. While building out the software, teams can pull in features on a different schedule, but they should always work towards the company’s high-level schedule.
Many businesses find that creating a steering committee or oversight committee helps to see if initiatives are following a steady path or are veering off-course. These committees can be helpful in that they’re not involved in the day-to-day delivery of a product like development teams are.
Doing What’s Best For The Journey And The Destination
Rushed software development projects don’t save time or money, and they often negatively affect quality — the greater a company’s rush to launch, the greater the risk. Before starting any software development project, a business should take the time needed to develop a technology roadmap.