If your business doesn’t already some roadmaps, then you probably feel as though you should have them. Because that’s what everyone seems to be been talking about – you have to have roadmaps, you can’t manage your business without roadmaps, roadmaps will unlock your strategic potential. And on, and on, and on.
But when you listen to those people, or read those studies do you really understand how roadmaps are going to help your business? Probably not, because most of them are long on concept and short on relevance. Which is why we felt the need to do a blog post on roadmaps, because they are important, but knowing how to leverage them to improve your business is what really matters.
Understanding the six degrees of separation
Fundamentally, successfully delivering digital business transformation is an exercise in managing dependencies. Understanding how work in one area impacts other areas of the business and preparing for that impact to optimize performance and minimize disruption. To do that effectively every time requires you to understand all of those dependencies, and that’s where roadmaps come in.
But those dependencies aren’t limited to just technology, or just projects. And they can’t be developed simply by manually connecting different roadmap elements and then dragging boxes around a screen. That’s just visualizing a flawed manual approach.
Dynamically connecting all work
If roadmapping is to be effective it must encompass all aspects of your projects, programs, products, technology assets and business functions. It must clearly represent the relationship between all of those elements and it must generate an easy-to-understand visual picture automatically – based on real data. You can still drag those elements around to see the impact (we’ll look at that more in the next post), but there has to be substance below that drag and drop capability.
Roadmaps are just a tool to help you better manage your business, and if you’re spending excessive amounts of time producing those tools then they’re detracting from that business management, not enhancing it. Instead of focusing on manually developing visual roadmaps to help you plan, leverage functionality that produces roadmaps from your portfolios of initiatives and assets so that you can:
- Quickly understand relationships and identify potential bottlenecks, problem areas and opportunities.
- Visualize the key events and milestones on every piece of the work and how those work elements integrate with and depend upon each other.
- Assess alternatives to optimize your value delivery in all areas at all times.
- Communicate plans, decisions and commitments to all stakeholders in a way that can easily be understood.
Aligning execution with strategy
By analyzing these integrated roadmaps, you can gain an understanding of all the threats and opportunities for your organization, and by drilling down to the details you, and all other stakeholders, can see the relationship between your strategy and the work you are doing. You unlock insights into milestones, dependencies and risks that are otherwise locked in the brains of the program, project or product managers. And that insight drives better decisions.
Because the roadmap is such an easy-to-understand visual tool, and because it achieves that without compromising on the amount or quality of information it conveys, it is the perfect vehicle to communicate with all stakeholders. That in turn allows those stakeholders to ensure there is always alignment between the strategy and the work that’s being delivered to achieve that strategy.
A key component of strategic portfolio management
That’s really the key to this whole roadmapping thing. While some people will have you believe that it’s simply a technique for planning visually that you can then use to develop schedules and plans, it’s actually a set of capabilities to help you make better decisions. Time spent building pictures and then dragging boxes around isn’t improving your business. Allowing the software to build those pictures so you can assess them and drive your business forward, well that’s got the promise of better delivery.
And speaking of better delivery, how do you keep track of how all those moving parts are doing? Well, you do that with status reporting.