Roadmaps — they’re not just for product managers.
We often associate roadmaps — strategic plans outlining the steps required to accomplish a business objective — with the development of products. And we often associate the creation of roadmaps with product managers. But the two key value propositions of building a product roadmap, which I’ll list below, can be integral to the success of any business initiative, such as upgrading your company’s technology backbone.
The key value propositions of any roadmap can be summed up this way:
- A roadmap creates a useful strategic framework in which you, as the driver of the initiative, can effectively organize and prioritize your ideas, objectives and requirements into a high-level strategic plan that will inform all downstream decisions.
- A roadmap also makes it far easier for you to communicate your strategic plan and its details to the various constituents from whom you will need to earn buy-in and with whom you will need to collaborate throughout the development process.
This is why developing a roadmap can be an invaluable exercise for any stakeholder launching a complex initiative within a company.
Some examples of successful roadmaps that have been developed with ProductPlan’s visual roadmap software, are Technology Roadmaps, Architecture Roadmaps and Enterprise IT Roadmaps.
In its paper “Energy Technology Roadmaps,” the International Energy Agency explains the benefits of a technology roadmap this way:
“The effort shall lead to improved and enhanced sharing of and collaboration on all related technology-specific research, development, demonstration and deployment (RDD&D) among participants. The goal is to accelerate the overall RDD&D process in order to deliver an earlier update of the specific energy technology into the marketplace.”
Technology Roadmap Example
You can use a technology roadmap to plan out strategic initiatives into the future, such as migrating different software systems, or rolling out software updates. The audience for a technology roadmap will often be stakeholders looking to the IT team for delivering internal-facing systems and solutions. The technology roadmap may also be shared with partners and vendors who rely on integrations and other technology from the organization.
In the example illustrated in here, the roadmap is divided into three different categories: People, Technology and Security. The colors indicate the status of each initiative. The roadmap can have a time horizon such as the next year.
A technology roadmap can also be broader in scope, focused on the creation of new technology entirely, as opposed to deploying existing technology across a company or department.
The key to a successful technology roadmap — and with any type of roadmap — is its ability to quickly and effectively communicate the strategic plan to the right constituents.
Architecture Roadmap Example
In many software companies, the software architect is tasked to build a solid foundation that becomes the backbone of the company’s products. A typical method of creating, communicating and tracking this backbone is with an architecture roadmap. Common architecture roadmap components are the Application Programming Interface (API), User Interface (UI), Storage and third-party services integrations.
These platform components are often part of other product roadmaps in the organization because features may rely on them.
In their book, Large-Scale Software Architecture: A Practical Guide Using UML, authors Jeff Garland and Richard explain that among a software architect’s key objectives in creating and managing a software architecture roadmap will be:
“To manage the selection of technologies and software products used in the [company’s] current product, and to develop a plan for evolving these technologies as the product evolves.”
“To control the infusion of commercial software products, open-source software and freeware — taking into account the inherent tradeoffs among these different technologies such as cost, time-to-market and the quality of the solutions.”
In the screenshot example above, the roadmap is color-coded based on project status: Planning & Design, Implementation & Testing, Optimization. It is common that the timeframe for an Architecture Roadmap is long-term.
Notice also that each initiative within this roadmap is discussed only at the strategic level, as opposed to the task level. Under the “UI” section of the roadmap, for example, one of the components is to “Conduct User Interviews.” This allows the driver of the initiative to communicate the major phases of the project to the relevant constituents and stakeholders, to ensure everyone is on the same page in terms of the goals and necessary steps. This roadmap leaves the specific tasks under “Conduct User Interviews” (e.g., culling a list of users, assigning interviews to specific team members, gathering and reporting feedback from those interviews, etc.) to the project management aspect of the initiative.
Enterprise IT Roadmap Example
It is easy for large enterprises to lose sight of all the important initiatives going on across their IT organization. An enterprise IT roadmap allows you to visualize your strategic initiatives. The audience for an enterprise IT roadmap will often be internal stakeholders looking to the IT team for delivering internal-facing systems, security, and other solutions.
In a recent CIO Magazine article, “Why You Need a Strategic IT Roadmap,” Steve Ronan explains that as the role of organizations’ technology leaders moves from operational to strategic, these leaders increasingly need an IT roadmap, which he defines as:
“The governing document that dictates specifically how technology will support the business strategy and help business priorities.”
In the screenshot example here, the roadmap outlines capabilities based on their strategic importance. Those could be grouped, for example, by security and compliance initiatives, High Availability & Disaster Recovery (HA & DR), as well as operational support tasks. The timeframe for these strategic roadmaps is longer, often 12-18 months.
This longer timeframe is often necessary because, as you can see from the example roadmap above, the individual components of many enterprise IT initiatives require longer lead time — for example, the “Train Support Engineers” component in the Operational Support category.
See More Roadmap Template Examples
Our product roadmap software has been used to create thousands of roadmaps within businesses across virtually every industry — marketing roadmaps, executive-facing roadmaps, IT roadmaps, sprint roadmaps, and a wide variety of technology roadmaps. Visit our Roadmap Templates Page to see many more examples and to gain ideas and inspiration for your next roadmap.