What is it with technology roadmaps? Creating them ranks up there with dental work for least favorite things to do.
What makes creating a technology roadmap hard is answering the question, “why?” Why do you want to do the things you want to do?
Will What Got You Here Help You Get There?
Technology roadmap exercises are easier when the environment feels static. We believe tomorrow will look a lot like today. We know what problems will exist because we are dealing with them now. Incrementalism rules the day. Most folks would say that today’s environment is the furthest from static. What do we do in that case?
Today, we are as nervous as long-tailed cats in a room full of rocking chairs. Innovation. Digital transformation. Artificial Intelligence. These concepts are beginning to take shape. And folks want to know: “What are you doing about it?”
I came across this article from MIT that describes how Johnson & Johnson’s CIO goes about technology roadmap planning. It offers some insights that we might find useful.
Creating a Technology Roadmap at Johnson & Johnson
The article describes three “pillars” that Johnson & Johnson counts on to develop its technology roadmap.
- Modernizing the technology ecosystem and core
- Building enterprise digital acumen
- Innovating for impact
Modernizing the Technology Ecosystem and Core
The “pillar” we understand best is modernizing the technology ecosystem and core. The tools available to do our work are evolving, with new approaches that emerge. Think about how use of chat has supplanted email. Also, did you think three years ago that video conferencing was going to be central to getting work done?
Building Enterprise Digital Acumen
Why would “building enterprise digital acumen” be relevant to your technology roadmap? Because the one thing you know about the future is you cannot predict what is going to matter the most. I have seen how younger people joining an organization are bringing digital skills and ways of working to their jobs. If you want to build digital acumen, you must give people the tools that they need to do their work. I would have never expected to hear about Jira being used for team management, but here we are. On the one hand, we want to standardize our tool use. Let’s not use three different collaboration platforms. On the other hand, we want to encourage trying new ways of doing things. Hence, we must live with a little messiness.
Innovating for Impact
“Innovating for impact” sounds like one of those “duh!” phrases. I would suggest two ways to operationalize this in your technology roadmap work.
- Understand how important it is for the organization to innovate over the next couple of years. Do you see changes in your environment (funding, regulatory, competitive, etc.) that will drive either more competition or more opportunities for growth?
- Understand what drives your business. This is where innovating for impact will matter the most. What if the organization could roll out a program in weeks vs. months? Would it help if the organization could make funding decisions in days vs. weeks?
Some Best Practices
Your technology roadmap is starting to take shape. You have flagged projects that will help modernize your core systems and leverage innovation in relevant ecosystems. There are projects designed to experiment with digital tools and increase digital skills across the organization. You have worked with the management team to understand if innovation matters and where it would make the biggest impact. Now we can talk about some best practices for carrying out your technology roadmap.
- Start by identifying business outcomes. Apply your limited technology resources and budget to projects that have the biggest impact on the business.
- Embrace a test-and-learn mentality. Sometimes you cannot afford to wait for technology to mature. (See: AI.) You might want to learn about a technology and how you can put it to use before it has fully matured.
- Build up a knowledge base. This applies across the organization, not just in IT.
- Think beyond deployment and implementation. Hooray, you rolled the project out! Are you seeing the outcomes you expected?
- Seek out promoters. Build your coalition of supporters.
You Got This
Building a technology roadmap is hard work. It takes time and focused thought. Develop a mindset that asks, “why?” and “what if” throughout the year. This will put you ahead of the curve when the budget and technology roadmap season comes around.