How to Create A Roadmap That Helps You Say No

Is your IT department trying to get a seat at the table and be more involved in deciding what work you’re doing and why? If so, you’ve probably struggled with the delicate balancing act of keeping a sane workload while helping your business partners achieve their objectives. So can technology roadmap templates help you say no?

This is a delicate balancing act because you have limited people and budget to work with, yet your business partners seem to have a never-ending stream of requests they just have to have.

Fortunately, you can learn from how product managers interact with their customers and stakeholders to say no in a way that does not make you persona non grata. It comes down to how you communicate with your business partners and how you make use of tools such as technology roadmaps to aid that communication.

Why IT departments have to say no

Alongside all the day-to-day work you’d expect to do as part of an IT department, such as supporting laptops and maintaining your company’s networks, you’re also asked to support a variety of business processes.

Those requests could be to change your company’s existing systems, or they could be to build a new system. More recently, the requests are to interface systems you already use with a new cloud service.

You want to be helpful to these organizations, so you often accept those requests and try to make them happen. You didn’t want to say no because you were concerned that your business partners would go off and find a different solution.

Your first inclination was to take responsibility for delivery and look for your business partners to define what you’re trying to accomplish. You accepted all the requests and put project plan upon project plan in place to deliver everything they requested.

You soon find that you can’t satisfy all the requests you said you could, disappointing your business partners and driving them into the arms of outside providers. That leads to Shadow IT, the bane of most IT departments’ existence.

While you would think that would mean less work for you, it usually means more because you have to clean up the mess of integrations gone wrong and new security holes not completely in your control. You want to work with your business partners to prioritize essential initiatives.

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Apply your product management skill set

This is where product management techniques come into play. No longer do you get involved only once there’s a fully formed solution request. Instead, you work with business partners to understand the problem, determine if it’s worth solving right now, and identify a viable solution.

That means saying no without affecting your relationship with your business partners. Since product managers say no often (some would say that’s their primary job) there are some things you can learn from them.

How to say no without burning bridges

A friend of mine once said, “You can say just about anything you want, as long as you smile.” While saying “no” with a smile certainly won’t make matters worse, there are other things you’ll want to do when rejecting a business partner’s request to keep your relationship strong.

When you say no to a business partner’s request, the last thing you want to do is reject it outright. Acknowledge their request and take time to understand why they are making it. You may find that while you can’t address their specific request, you can help them accomplish their ultimate outcome differently.

And when explaining that you can’t fulfill their request, explain why. Give a larger context, such as completing other efforts or supporting your company’s strategy that explains why you can’t support your request. Go a step further and explain your approach to prioritization and show the focus of your upcoming cycles while discussing how your business partner’s request fits in with those planned activities.

Those conversations always go better with visual aids, and that’s where a technology roadmap comes in handy.

Technology roadmaps help explain why you said “no”

A technology roadmap is a high-level visual summary that maps out the vision and plans for a complex technology undertaking such as rolling out new software for employees, upgrading your digital network or migrating to a new email program.

The act of putting a technology roadmap together helps you consider how technology changes will affect other parts of your organization. So when you get subsequent requests, you can consider how the additional request might increase the impact.

The technology roadmap helps you summarize the strategic thinking behind your plan, and the benefits you expect the change will deliver to the company. When a request comes along, you can use the roadmap to show how the request relates to other initiatives and how it interferes with efforts to meet your IT strategy.

You can also use the roadmap to show your prioritization decisions to date, giving you examples to use when you explain how you made those prioritization decisions.

Even if your technology roadmap doesn’t have dates on it, you can still use it to say “not now” instead of never. Your business partner’s request may be a good idea, but it’s not terribly urgent. You can refer to the technology roadmap templates and point to other activities that are more important to get done first after which you can deliver on the request.

Need some help explaining why you said no?

Are you ready to help your business partners out by saying “no” a bit more often? It’s time to put together a roadmap so you can think through your current plans and communicate to your business partners when they ask for something new.

ProductPlan has a collection of roadmap templates, including technology roadmap templates that will help get you started.

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