Let’s face it, IT Services doesn’t get the glory it deserves. Most large organizations would quickly grind to a halt without the shepherding and management of the networks, applications, and information architecture managed by IT Services. While simultaneously “keeping the lights on” for dozens of systems. IT Services are also continuously evaluating, updating, and upgrading them to keep things as fast, secure, and robust as necessary.
While some of these decisions are pretty straightforward, IT Services also makes many strategic decisions with long-term repercussions for the entire organization. Therefore, IT Services must effectively communicate their plans to get the approval of stakeholders with an IT roadmap. But don’t put the cart before the horse. First, what’s the state of your IT Services strategy?
The Importance of Starting with an IT Services Strategy
The complexity and scope of IT systems have elevated their importance within every organization. After all, IT systems have significant implications on a company’s ability to deliver their core business services, scale effectively, and manage their costs.
IT services can no longer make decisions on their own or treat individual requests as one-offs. The strategic significance of it all means you must consider the executive level in your plans towards a coherent blueprint for the future.
Avoid a bad IT strategy
When it comes to the core infrastructure of a company, there are too many interdependencies to “wing it.” A coherent and comprehensive IT Services strategy will save your business from disappointment, delays, and derailments.
When it’s handled independently, information silos develop. Those silos create downstream issues such as compatibility, interoperability, bandwidth consumption, and storage requirements. Struggles like this can make your stakeholders frustrated and jeopardize mission-critical systems. IT needs to take a holistic view of IT services to avoid duplicative services, coverage gaps, unprepared support teams, and a confused workforce.
Project timing is everything
IT Services also have a responsibility to plan for the future, even when the lines of business aren’t sure what that future will be. IT must get out ahead of future technological requirements and anticipate what new conditions will be.
Large systems projects, such as adding, upgrading, or replacing an HRM, ERP, or CRM solution, don’t happen in one fell swoop. They require lots of coordination, use resources from multiple groups, and typically occur in phases. Map that all out in your roadmap. Create visibility into the full scope of the project. Chances are, your IT systems have multiple initiatives running concurrently. It’s hard to keep track of where each project is. The roadmap will serve as a reference point for your stakeholders and contributors around dependencies at a high level.
Practice fiscal responsibility
All of these projects, upgrades, and new systems aren’t free. Factor in budgetary concerns during decision making, planning, and scheduling. Typically, organizations want to spread out their big-ticket expenses to minimize hits on their cash flow. Occasionally, it’s imperative to spend money sooner rather than later or to defer high costs for as long as possible.
Not all IT initiatives are created equal. Another role for IT leaders is to prioritize things based on the expected benefits of making a change (and the downsides of a standing pat) regarding various aspects of an organization’s IT stack.
Roadmaps can be a unifying, consensus-building force that facilitates discussion, debate, and—ultimately—agreement. Your plan must be easily digestible and simple to view in a broader context of the company’s overall activities to build buy-in.
Roadmap planning shouldn’t just include what’s new or improved. It also must factor in when outdated services are retired (or when the company will stop paying for them). End-of-life activities are just as important as those related to spinning something up. In some ways, they’re even more critical because many customers and business processes actively rely on them. Those dependent will need support dealing with the repercussions and transition of their discontinuation.
Define your success
Finally, your project strategy needs to have clear, measurable success criteria. Without metrics, there’s no way to tell if the initiative was officially accomplished.
A culture where IT Services projects are well-planned and part of a comprehensive strategy sets the expectation that the work is reaching an objective and is not completed solely because of one person said-so. If an objective can’t be defined and metrics can’t be established, then it’s back to the drawing board.
If everything with your strategy is aligned and communicated then it’s time to make your IT roadmap.
Where to Start your IT Services Roadmap
The starting point for any roadmap is to identify the ultimate vision for the organization. In that way, IT Services roadmaps are like any other roadmaps. Like any other roadmap, you know where you are today, and you know where you want to go. The hard part is plotting how to get from here to there. For IT Services, this may be a desire to improve operations and efficiency, or a driver to upgrade to the next generation of technology (security, performance, or an end-of-life scenario).
From assessment to an IT roadmap
Let’s look at this step by step.
- Assess your current situation and how that compares with your desired end state. With those gaps now identified, you can work backward on how to enhance or overhaul areas where your present solutions aren’t cutting it.
- Break down the delta between current and future states into specific projects.
- Once those are scoped (including an estimated level of effort and budget), prioritize. You can use one of the many available methods and frameworks.
- Select the appropriate type of roadmap that best fits your organization. Luckily there are plenty of technology roadmap templates that do the heavy lifting for you so you can plug in the projects and related information.
- Convey that decisions are based on strategy. IT investments are competitive advantages, add real business value, and are responsive to the demands of the organization.
- Schedule periodic reviews of your roadmap to account for any changes to strategy or business conditions.
Socialize your IT roadmap
With an initial roadmap under your belt and ready to share, it’s time to socialize your ideas and solicit feedback and collect feedback. All the while ensuring responsible actions are taken to preserve the integrity and sustainability of the overall IT Services environment.
After you get final consensus and sign-offs, then the execution begins.
IT Services exists to create solutions for its respective business. Without clear communication and strategy (like a roadmap), IT Services runs the risk of making costly mistakes. A roadmap provides direction, strategy, and prompts those much-needed discussions.
An IT Services roadmap can help you avoid following a plan that diverges from the goals and requirements of the overall organization, which should save everyone time, money, and unnecessary headaches. With a well-understood, shared vision, IT Services can be confident they’re delivering optimal value for the company and providing clarity and visibility to their stakeholders… so don’t kick off another project without creating a strategic roadmap to guide the way.