In today’s professional landscape, there’s a greater demand for organizations to integrate IT into the bigger picture of their business strategies. As the relationship between technology and strategic planning becomes more complex, it’s important for organizations to revisit action plans with the goal of formulating new IT roadmaps suited for the digital business era.
The Right Roadmap Drives Cooperation
In the past, IT roadmaps were used to help companies achieve very specific tech-related outcomes. This encouraged IT departments to work in silos, where they’d spend their time focusing on technology issues rather than looking at how they could improve the organization as a whole. This created an inefficient system where functional executives and technology leaders had minimal collaboration.
Problems with the silo mentality are often associated with the lack of collaboration and strategic IT planning to work-related problems, such as:
- New software projects that are doomed to fail
- Lack of stakeholders involved in the decision-making process of tech-related projects
- Lack of a clear business objective
An effective IT roadmap aims to solve these problems by encouraging collaboration between business and technology. This is especially important in today’s competitive business landscape, where technology professionals are expected to partner with other departments to help their organizations use technology to achieve tangible business goals.
How Does an IT Roadmap Work?
According to Garner research, a major challenge tech leaders face in the modern business environment is developing a governance model that can handle the growing demands of digital business. To achieve this outcome, CIOs must first reframe their approach towards technology, presenting it as a business consideration that benefits the corporation – not just IT.
At its core, the IT roadmap aims to bridge the gap between IT and functional executives by demonstrating how technology can be used as an agent of positive change within an organization. The roadmap explores how technology can assist executives with meeting the strategic vision.
The goal of the roadmap should be to create an open channel of communication between functional executives and members of the technology department. Everyone from CIOs and data center architects to CEOs, department managers, and team leaders are all able to benefit from a well-planned roadmap. An effective roadmap must:
- Help CIOs make informed decisions regarding investments and project management
- Make it easier for functional executives to understand how the goals of tech projects align with overall business objectives
- Give deeper insight into the role technology plays in the organization, enabling functional executives to be more strategic when requesting updated technology
- Strengthen relationships between IT leaders and executive, so that both groups can work together to achieve the same outcome
By increasing collaboration between departments within an organization, the IT roadmap ensures that technology is factored into the decision-making process when executives are implementing or updating their business strategy.
Building an IT Roadmap from the Ground Up
Laying the groundwork of your technology roadmap is similar to finding your way on a geographical map. But instead of looking at street addresses and coordinates, you’ll be analyzing goals and outcomes.
As the CIO of a company, you’ll need to ask yourself the following questions as you map out your technology roadmap:
- Where am I right now? (What’s the current state of my department and the organization as a whole?)
- Where am I headed? (Where do I want to be in the future?)
The first thing you’ll need to do is assess where you are now by looking at the role technology plays in your organization. This will help you get a clear idea of what your department is bringing to the table, as well as how it can better suit the needs of the other departments.
You’ll also need to evaluate various metrics related to your current performance. Here are some things you should make note of in the planning process:
- Which departments you provide IT solutions for and the specific services each department needs
- All software applications being used, as well as the departments using them
- A comprehensive catalog of business-related computers and mobile devices used
- Inventory of your network hardware (routers, servers, data backup, etc.) across departments and branches
- Security measures in place to keep your network protected
- Expenses associated with operating your IT services
This information helps you look at your IT operations from an objective point of view. Now you can explore different ways to expand your services or cut back on unnecessary expenses. These metrics also help stakeholders understand which technology projects are important and effective, as well as which initiatives should be reprioritized or changed completely.
Assessing the current state of your department gives you a starting point to use when launching future projects. From there, you can draw up and prioritize the goals you want to achieve over a specific period of time.
Optimizing the IT Roadmap
Until recently, many companies used IT roadmaps to help them achieve objectives anywhere from three to ten years down the road. The problem with planning so far in advance is that organizations are building roadmaps based on current trends and technology in a landscape that’s subject to change every six months to a year.
In an interview with SearchCIO, Liberty Mutual CIO Mojgan Lefebvre detailed a framework for what makes an effective IT roadmap. Here are a few of her key points:
- Roadmaps should never be long-term, as the nature of business and IT are constantly evolving
- The CIO should understand the organization’s business strategy and then plan accordingly
- Flexibility is essential. Above everything else, your IT roadmap should be able to change to suit the dynamic needs of your teams and support your business model as it evolves
A popular alternative to long-term roadmapping is the 120-day approach. This method requires IT executives to draw up a list of capabilities needed to achieve the organization’s goals and objectives. Departments work to reach their desired outcomes over the course of the next four months. After they reach the 120th day, they revisit the IT roadmap and look at different ways it can be optimized.
While the 120-day approach to IT roadmapping may seem more hectic than a long-term strategy, it does offer advantages that can set your organization ahead of the competition:
- Stakeholders can realize outcomes over a shorter timeframe. As a result, this leaves less room for speculation, while giving departments more opportunities to adjust and improve their strategies.
- Short-term roadmapping forces companies to be flexible and revisit their technology roadmap every four months.
Finally, don’t forget that collaboration is at the heart of every successful roadmap. It’s important to engage with stakeholders throughout the entire process, starting from when you assess the current state of your department. Not only does this keep them in the loop so that they have a better idea of the needs and expectations of the department, it ensures that everyone’s priorities are aligned and that all executives and department heads are working together to achieve the same business objectives.
Plotting the Course
Developing a flexible and up-to-date IT roadmap is a major step towards helping companies reach their business goals more effectively – especially with large corporations where objectives are more likely to be confined to departmental silos. Beneficial to both technology leaders and functional executives, an IT roadmap that involves collaboration between departments helps strengthen the company’s overall performance.
Coordination between IT and other departments gives stakeholders the opportunity to see firsthand the value technology-related projects have brought to the organization, in addition to reminding tech professionals of the needs and expectations of other departments. As a result, the organization can come up with a well-formulated plan that leverages technology to optimize business operations from C-level executives to project managers and team leaders.