It’s Thursday afternoon, and your sales team calls. The laptop they were taking to the tradeshow on Friday just died. What should they do? If you’re a small to mid-sized business, you might:
- Check out the storage cabinet for an old laptop.
- Purchase a replacement either online or in-store.
But, the old laptop is so outdated it can’t run the video at speed, and the replacement won’t be available until Friday afternoon. That doesn’t leave time for the software to be installed, configured, and the video tested before the start of the tradeshow.
The last resort would be to requisition another employee’s laptop for the sales team, but that means reconfiguring the laptop, moving files, and deleting programs. What if the video doesn’t run at speed on that laptop?
Suddenly, what looked like an excellent opportunity to get solid sales leads has become a stressful two days of making sure the equipment is working. Instead of arriving at the exhibit refreshed, the employees arrive late and unfocused. This scenario is just one reason why a business needs an IT roadmap.
What is an IT Roadmap?
Technology or IT roadmaps are visual frameworks that identify what a company’s technology goals are. The roadmap starts with where a company is and then describes what competencies are needed to reach those technical goals. IT roadmaps are the product of strategic planning by multiple stakeholders. They are designed to communicate how a company’s technology investments will support its overall business strategy.
Business and technology goals can be short- or long-term. They can have immediate timelines or future deadlines that are years out. The roadmaps should include how technologies will be implemented and provide information for sound technology investments. They should answer questions such as:
- What is the current state of the company’s technology?
- Can these technologies support an organization’s core competencies?
- Is the infrastructure capable of pivoting during a business disruption?
- Are there different technologies doing the same functions?
IT roadmaps outline a company’s path to digital transformation by addressing technology concerns such as the following:
- Software Migration
- Legacy Systems
- Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery
- Infrastructure Changes
- System Upgrades
Although technology is the focus of the roadmaps, IT departments should not be responsible for creating them. Successful roadmapping involves individuals from across the enterprise.
Who is Responsible for Creating an IT Roadmap?
It’s easy to place the roadmapping responsibility with IT, but an effective roadmap is a collaborative effort. Every functional group should be represented during the process, including company executives. For instance, accounting wants to upgrade or replace the existing system. They are looking to integrate accounting with sales orders and inventory management. If they are not consulted, the roadmap is incomplete.
Taking the time to discuss what different departments are contemplating when it comes to technology ensures that the roadmap results in an enterprise-wide infrastructure that moves a company forward. If not, IT may be forced to integrate solutions that weaken the infrastructure and expose the company to security risks. IT roadmap consulting can help you untangle these interests.
As part of the process, companies should consider third-party stakeholders. A business may be part of an integrated supply chain, and an IT roadmap needs to ensure its adaptability. If the third party decides to move to the cloud, will the roadmap support the change?
Business is no longer simple, no matter its size. Retailers have websites with online shopping. Organizations require backup solutions to protect against unexpected disruptions such as cyberattacks or power outages. Regulatory requirements for online payments and consumer privacy have to be met. Without a roadmap, companies can expend significant resources and still fail to meet the challenges of digital transformation.
Why is an IT Roadmap Important?
Although an IT roadmap focuses on the deployment of technical resources to achieve business goals, it serves as a tool for stakeholders to make informed operational decisions. Let’s go back to that Thursday afternoon example to see how a technology roadmap could have changed the outcome.
Equipment fails and usually at the most inopportune times. For small and mid-sized businesses, maintaining equipment that is not mission-critical often drops to the bottom of the priority list. If it isn’t broken, why fix it, right? There are so many other priorities that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, that nonessential laptop can become a mission-critical device, as the company in the example discovered.
There are multiple ways to address equipment failure. Finding the right one depends on the organization. Few companies can afford to stockpile unused equipment for emergency use. Plus, rapidly changing technology can make unused equipment obsolete before it is ever put into use. So, what are possible alternatives, and how can a roadmap help?
The first step in roadmapping is establishing a company’s current technology landscape, including the age of each piece of equipment. From that starting point, organizations can discuss the strategic importance of maintaining operational equipment and how best to achieve that goal. Two possible options include:
- Establish a replacement schedule. On average, laptops should be replaced every three to five years, depending on usage. Desktops may need replacing between five and eight years.
- Create a monitoring program. Automated tools exist for monitoring the performance of devices on a network. These tools can be used to look at how long it takes for programs to load or to evaluate latency issues when running resource-intensive programs.
Other possibilities include a backup device that can be readily reconfigured for employees while their device is being repaired or replaced. The importance of the strategic decision goes beyond minimizing unplanned equipment failure.
The Thursday afternoon example may seem rather simplistic, but it underscores the value of a technology roadmap.
Everyone is on the same page. Having a clear strategy for equipment maintenance minimizes disagreements when it comes to budgets. Whatever the decision, all stakeholders know where equipment reliability fits into the company’s strategic plan.
Competencies are addressed. If monitoring is to be deployed, is staff available to act on the results? If automated tools will be used, does staff need training? Should an IT consulting service be used if staffing is a problem?
Backup plans are identified. There’s always the possibility of unplanned equipment failure. That’s why alternatives should be in place, such as cloud backup for faster configuring of a new or replacement device.
Risks are assessed. Whatever the decision, the associated risk should be addressed so that all stakeholders are aware of any potential negative outcomes. For example, a company could continue to see equipment reliability as a low priority and is willing to take the risk that a Thursday afternoon event might happen.
With an IT roadmap, the company in the opening example could have avoided the negative impact on its sales strategy. Equipment could have been monitored and replaced to minimize unplanned equipment failure. Backup plans could have ensured a positive outcome if the unexpected happened. Instead of an unfocused and stressed sales team, the business could have presented a refreshed and polished image that could lead to additional sales.
What are the Benefits of a Technology Roadmap?
The process of roadmapping is one of its primary benefits. It requires organizations to take a focused look at their enterprises to ensure that their technology and business goals are aligned. In today’s environment, technology not only supports business objectives, but it also drives business growth.
Aligns Business and Technology Goals
The traditional view of business and technology created very high silos that separated IT from other business units. Non-IT personnel labeled IT departments as too technical to understand, and IT employees were amazed at what the rest of the company didn’t know about technology. Unfortunately, those stereotypes made it difficult for organizations to bridge the divide that made it possible for digital transformation.
That world is changing. According to Gartner, 50% of organizations will have increased collaboration between business and IT by 2022. That’s why an IT roadmap has meaning. By aligning business and technology objectives with IT roadmap consulting, companies can become more productive and competitive.
A recent survey found that 64% of companies don’t see the revenue results from their digital transformation strategies that they anticipated. In most instances, the lack of progress is a result of a lack of collaboration. For years, companies operated in silos, with each department going its own way to meet corporate objectives. That approach no longer works. Not only does it hamper business growth, but it also increases operating costs as a result of redundant expenditures.
Bringing together an enterprise-wide team to chart the company’s strategy for the next three to five years encourages the collaboration needed to achieve a competitive advantage. Sometimes, IT roadmap consulting services can help facilitate collaboration by functioning as a bridge between diverse functional groups.
Putting a technology roadmap in place can help organizations operate more efficiently and effectively. Technical solutions can be deployed that make it easier for information to flow throughout the enterprise. With better data management, employees can access critical information to deliver better customer experiences and provide quality data for analytics that drive business decisions.
By implementing technology such as automation tools, businesses can free employees to work on higher-value tasks, contributing to improved customer and employee experience. These changes can lead to improved productivity, and reduced operational costs as redundancies are identified and eliminated.
Risk is part of doing business. Even well-planned projects can encounter obstacles. A benefit of a technology roadmap is the ability to perform risk assessments before implementation. As in the opening example, companies can evaluate risks associated with even the most basic technical decisions. Who could have envisioned that poor equipment maintenance would lead to a loss of potential sales?
By evaluating risk potential and devising ways to mitigate those risks, organizations can reduce the chance of unplanned events that can impact operations. Developing business continuity and disaster recovery plans ensures that the technology is available to support business objectives in case of an unexpected event.
Facilitates Digital Transformation
A far-reaching benefit of a technology roadmap is its ability to direct digital transformation. Technology is deployed in alignment with business objectives so it enables a better customer and employee experience. The creation process encourages collaboration that can extend beyond roadmapping to foster innovation. And, it builds in a method of checks and balances to ensure that milestones are met and projects complete on schedule. Without a plan, digital transformation doesn’t happen.
Technology Roadmap FAQs
Although there are many components to creating an IT roadmap, here are a few critical facts to consider.
What is an IT Roadmap?
An IT roadmap is a visual representation of a company’s strategic business and technology objectives. It identifies where a company is and where it wants to be with its technology.
Why is a Roadmap Important?
Roadmaps enable organizations to direct their resources towards achieving strategic objectives through directives that facilitate daily operational decisions.
How do you Prepare a Technology Roadmap?
Building a technology roadmap is a team effort that requires company-wide participation. Critical parts of a plan include:
- Business and Technology Objectives
- System Capabilities
- Release Plans
- Resource Overview
- Employee Training
- Risk Factors
- Update Processes
For small to mid-sized businesses, IT roadmap consulting services can help bring a roadmap to completion.
What is the Purpose of a Technology Roadmap?
Roadmaps help to align business and technology strategies to facilitate an organization’s digital transformation. It serves as a communications tool that enables functional groups to make informed decisions regarding resources, and it establishes a plan with milestones that ensures timely execution.
What Makes a Good Technology Roadmap?
Effective roadmaps come from collaborative efforts that outline how a company plans to align its business and technology objectives to ensure sustained growth.
Putting together a good technology roadmap can be a daunting task for small to mid-sized businesses that are already struggling with increasing workloads. A well-established IT consulting firm can help.
With the added resources, a company can create a roadmap that directs its resources, resulting in more productive and cost-effective operations. For organizations anywhere in the United States, ITX Tech Group can guide you through the process.