An IT roadmap is a plan that plots a business’s short and long-term goals, with technology solutions that help meet their objectives.
You might hear a roadmap mentioned if a company plans to add a new product, service or process and needs a technology fix to help get them there, and a detailed plan is one of the many things an outsourced IT support service can bring to the table.
Putting a roadmap together will help a business understand their needs better and allow them to make more informed decisions around short-term gains and what it will take to lay the foundations for IT developments down the line.
There are a few approaches, but they generally fall into one of two categories.
IT systems roadmap
This defines the operating systems required to enable core capabilities across the business. Examples would be triggered and automated customer emails or data analytics for online businesses and call centres.
This looks at the technology available to support the systems - the engine behind the outputs, if you like. The technology roadmap considers what’s available today, such as cloud computing instead of in-house servers, innovations in the pipeline and which software is nearing end-of-life, so you can roll out IT developments with the best long-term, practical solutions.
Who needs an IT roadmap?
IT Roadmaps are great for aligning businesses and their stakeholders, keeping everyone on the same page and focused on a shared goal(s).
They’re most often used by companies that need to bring a wide range of people together. By creating a document that puts everyone from the IT experts to the procurement team in the picture, businesses of every size can benefit from the organisation it brings to any project.
Give me an example of a change that might need to be road-mapped
A growing business using an on-site accounting system decides to invest in a SaaS (software as a service) solution with the aim of transforming their dated finance management system and improving functionality and security along the way.
From a roadmap perspective, that might mean:
Short-term goal: Moving to Xero, an accounting software provider that allows businesses to manage cash flow and get paid faster.
End goal: Facilitating easier bookkeeping, simpler reporting and more intelligent business forecasting.
Key components of a good IT roadmap will include:
- New system capabilities
- Release plans
- Risk factors
- Status reports
Goals: As with any plan, goals help you clarify what you want to achieve in the short- and long-term. The only difference with an IT roadmap is that the goals are achieved with the help of a technology solution, often delivered by an IT consultancy who can act as a virtual CIO.
They’ll focus on the business capabilities you want to build or enhance and what it will take to maintain systems going forward.
New system capabilities: This is a detailed description of the system capabilities. For an online store, that might be tracking customer spend across different categories, providing deeper insight into their needs and spending habits.
The detail here is an important part of the roadmap because it helps support the case for spend and brings the real benefits to life for stakeholders.
Release plans: Release plans are a little like stepping stones, paving the way for the bigger technology solution. They focus on smaller (and sometimes multiple enhancements) required across the business to support the change and allow for a smoother transition.
They’re generally planned well in advance and some companies run them outside typical business working hours, so the impact for customers or downtime for system admin is minimised.
Milestones: Milestones are the dates set around key deliverables along the technology development process.
They help set the scene for the business and give stakeholders an idea of what will happen and when.
They’re important from a project planning and budgeting perspective too. If the first milestone slips and the plan starts to experience delays from early on, it could be a warning flag for resourcing and financing of the wider project.
Resources: It’s important to be as specific as possible when it comes to resources, bearing in mind there may be legacy issues and the cross-over between old and new systems might also create work.
Training: Training teams so they can use new systems from go-live is another essential part of road-mapping.
It’s wise to take some time early on to work out exactly who needs to be trained and plan it well in advance, alongside business-as-usual tasks.
Risk factors: This explores all internal and external barriers that could prevent the business from achieving its goals. Risks could be anything from limitations on the technology and suppliers meeting their obligations to delay impacts and budget or resource restrictions.
The key is to understand the risk potential, take every precaution to side-step issues and develop contingency or business continuity plans where you think they might be necessary.
Status reports: Regular reporting is important because it goes a long way towards keeping stakeholders informed, involved and ultimately happy.
Business units will appreciate being kept in the loop when it comes to milestones, changes made to the plans, delays and any knock-on implications forecast down the line. Forewarned is forearmed and all that, and status reports are the best way to keep your plans on track, while keeping everyone well-informed.
Which teams are likely to be involved when creating an IT roadmap?
The best IT roadmaps include input from across the business. Every organisation and map is unique, but as a guide, they usually include stakeholders from:
- Management team
- Product management
- Project management
- Sales and marketing
- Legal and compliance
Outsourcing to a reputable IT service provider can help with everything we’ve covered here, reviewing a business or agency’s existing IT platform and planning for change around specific goals and ambitions to make sure the roadmap leads you where you want to go, rather than down the wrong path.
Get in touch with pebble.it to find out how we can help you, and in the meantime, because risk management is an important part of any IT roadmap, download our Buisness Continuity Planning checklist so you can know what needs to be covered in the event of unforeseen circumstances to keep your business running smoothly.