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A technology road map provides the detail behind an IT strategic plan. It reconciles short-term, medium-term and longer-term goals with specific technology solutions.
A paper map helps us navigate when we are travelling, a technology road map helps us navigate our way in achieving certain business objectives using technology.
A technology road map is a document, which lays out a clear route towards achieving certain goals. It is essential, because without such a map, projects can become de-railed, with too much focus on short-term needs, losing sight of the bigger picture. For example, employees may request new functions to be added to a software program, and there is a danger that IT becomes reactive. And once you get into a cycle of reaction, the risk of creating new issues leading to further reaction creeps in, not least of which is that you may leave yourself exposed to security threats.
But to explain more let’s go into space.
Or maybe not into space, but at least take a tip from NASA, if they don’t know how to put a technology road map together, then maybe no one does.
NASA has been busy putting technology road maps together.
It describes its 2015 technology road map as a:
“Foundational element of the Strategic Technology Investment Plan (STIP), an actionable plan that lays out the strategy for developing technologies essential to the pursuit of NASA’s mission and achievement of National goals. The STIP prioritises the technology candidates within the roadmaps and provides guiding principles for technology investment. The recommendations provided by the National Research Council heavily influence NASA’s technology prioritisation.”
Companies can be complex entities, employing different tools and approaches to different problems. And Chief Information Officers (CIOs) need to be the drivers of IT and also of change, applying a business centric approach – with a vision encompassing the company as a whole. An IT road map can be essential in achieving this.
A technology road map also helps create a consensus within an organisation about the needs for technology and its requirements. From this, it produces a framework to coordinate tech developments.
A company that does not have a technology road map risks being reactive, and too short-term in its focus.
An IT road map can be broken into three phases:
A preliminary phase: This focuses on leadership, the people who will make the plan happen, its sponsors, and also the scope and boundaries of the plan.
Development plan: This involves identifying core products to the plan, identifying critical system requirements, specifying major technology areas, technology drivers and technology alternatives, making recommendations and from that creating a technology road map report.
Follow-up activity, including a critique of the validation of the plan, and then, all being well, its acceptance.
An IT road map also needs to list priorities, it needs a timeline, it needs to justify its priorities, explaining why they are important, it needs to outline costs and the duration of the plan, and needs to assign ownership – who is responsible for each product?
Returning to NASA, it says: “The 2015 NASA Technology Roadmaps are a set of documents that consider a wide range of needed technology candidates and development pathways for the next 20 years (2015-2035). The roadmaps focus on applied research and development activities.”