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How to develop a technology roadmap

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The detail you present in your technology roadmap will depend, to a large extent, on who it is intended for.

What is a technology roadmap?

A technology roadmap details the journey that your technology innovation will take from “Eureka” to market entry. It is the document that will detail the route that your innovation will take as it develops and becomes market-ready. A good technology roadmap will be a precise visual representation of where your innovation is at any time.

The best way to describe the process is by using the analogy of a long car journey. On any long journey, you need to know where you are going and how you’re going to get there; otherwise your chances of arrival are slim. This is why you use a map or satnav. The same is true with innovation, which is why a technology roadmap is so helpful.

What’s more, a technology roadmap, by its very nature, is a plan that might (and probably will) change as the market develops; so it’s important to remember that what you include isn’t necessarily a commitment and isn’t carved in stone. Your map can evolve and develop as your product or service develops, or as your target market dictates.

All of that said, an effective technology roadmap will help get you back on track when emotions or energy are running low and will help you overcome barriers that come in your way.

Who might benefit from a technology roadmap?

There’s no doubt that in your role as innovator or entrepreneur the time you spend developing your technology roadmap will be time well spent. Your own technology roadmap should have more information rather than less, and as a minimum should include the likes of your goals, outcomes, activities and a summary of your customers’ needs.

That said, another reason for producing a technology roadmap might be to provide additional evidence to investors or to convince collaborators of your plans. If your map is to share with potential investors or any other collaborators then there may be merit in including less, rather than more, information. For example, not including dates could be a clever strategy because the chances are they won’t be adhered to and could even be used as a stick to beat you with. Either way, it’s essential NOT to use your technical roadmap as a detailed bug list, because this could de-motivate you in your hour of need.

Constructing an effective technology roadmap

It is essential, no matter who your map is intended for, that you clearly identify your goals and what steps you need to take to reach them. Can these steps be broken down into individual projects in their own right? Can you estimate how long each project might take? Are there certain steps that need to happen before others?  Are they on the critical path?

Furthermore, a clear understanding of your customers and what is important to them. If you’re struggling with this, don’t forget to ask them what they want.

When considering a future project, you’ll need to identify what impact it will have on existing customers, what percentage of customers will be affected, how will this affect revenue and so on.

Here are our top technology roadmap tips:

  1. Make sure your roadmap is a representation of all the inter-related tasks involved in achieving your goal and isn’t simply a list;
  2. Prioritise, prioritise, prioritise;
  3. Use pictures and diagrams to make complex concepts easier to understand;
  4. Make sure your roadmap appeals to its audience (even if this is just you);
  5. Focus on success;
  6. Involve others where you need to do;
  7. Keep it fresh and up-to-date; and
  8. Develop your own style

Peter Andrew is Head of Innovation at Alba Innovation Centre. Alba is a technology business incubation centre, providing advice and support to early stage businesses, and is home to some of Scotland’s leading innovative tech companies.

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