Technology is constantly evolving. To keep up with the never-ending demand for virtual tools, software development teams need to be focused on the right things.
The only way to stay ahead of your competition is to stay focused and have a plan. Ideally, you should understand how you will continue to develop your software as the world and the ecosystem in which you operate change. This is where having a technology roadmap comes in handy.
A technology roadmap is a document that lays out your team’s plans for the next several months or years. It provides a clear vision of what is most important to the evolution of your product and your organization.
In theory, this concept of detailed future planning is music to a product manager’s ears. In practice, however, it can be difficult to develop a technology roadmap that truly serves the needs of your organization.
Prioritization is key. Your line of work requires a ton of juggling. Technology roadmaps require you to decide what needs to be done immediately while also helping guide your team in understanding what order things need to be done in.
Building a technology roadmap is worth the initial difficulties faced when making this kind of long-term plan. It’s a necessary tool that can help give your software a good chance at adapting to new virtual climates and audience demands. It may be worth it for you to consider three major factors when creating a technology roadmap. (Hint: Think in terms of people, planning, implementing, and timeline.)
- Explaining the strategy of the business
- Explaining why you’re doing every single thing you do
- Explaining the context in which each element of the roadmap will be executed
Now let’s explore each of these factors in detail so you can build a technology roadmap that ensures the long-term success of your software.
Factor #1: Explaining the Strategy of the Business
Before you begin laying out your technology roadmap, it’s good to take a bird’s-eye view to see where it fits in your organization’s overall strategy and goals. Think about where you are now, your short-term and long-term goals, and what you can do to ensure that your technology framework allows you to meet those goals effectively and efficiently.
A good roadmap is one that clearly explains the strategy of your business and is aligned perfectly with that strategy. It is proactive, not reactive. And it helps your organization and teams to solve the right problem, the one customers actually want solved.
Don’t Ignore the Elements
Your technology roadmap should also make the reason behind hitting every single element clear. And it should show how achieving each element will help you accomplish your larger, overall goal.
For example, say one element on your roadmap is building a single sign-on (SSO), and the reason is to serve more enterprise clients. That’s a great goal. But you have to ask, will building it actually help you get more enterprise clients? Do you have a large group of leads who said they would sign up if your product had that particular feature?
If you haven’t done your research, you may not know whether building an SSO is worth prioritizing.
You want your roadmap to operate like a row of dominos, with each completed smaller element “knocking over” a bigger element, and then another, until you achieve your larger goal. Most roadmaps aren’t made with this level of analysis, and that’s where things can start to fall apart.
Another way to make sure your roadmap only includes worthwhile elements is to tie a dollar amount to each one. Explicitly document every assumption you have along the way, whether it’s a new market opening up, a new revenue opportunity, a cost-saving tactic, or a sale. Tie each element to an impact dollar amount in your P&L.
Factor #2: Explaining Why You’re Doing Every Single Thing You Do
Engineers need to have a clear picture of the why behind what they’re doing so they can make decisions in accordance with company goals. If they don’t know why, they can’t factor in all the necessary constraints, and their view of the world in which the system will operate could end up misguided. You can avoid future bugs and errors simply by making sure your engineers understand why they’re doing what they’re doing.
When the why is clear for every task, then your engineers can get on board with your vision. They will likely ask questions you didn’t anticipate. Questions that expose unseen flaws in your plan and questions that can save you tons of time and money. Your team can suggest alternative solutions that you hadn’t thought of but that are still in alignment with company goals.
Involving more people in the validation of your roadmap will not only prevent future confusion and miscommunication but will also allow the collective team brain to solve problems in a more optimal way.
Where To Get Started
How exactly you’ll put this idea into motion depends on the maturity of your team. Start from the highest level objective and work your way down.
For example, say your objective is to go public in five years. In order to reach that goal, you need to hit several specific metrics, perhaps revenue targets or annual growth targets. But these are lagging indicators. In order to hit those metrics, you need to execute a marketing and sales strategy that might also depend on your product roadmap.
A mature team has been around the block a few times and will recognize and understand that kind of detailed plan. They might even add a few elements you missed to your roadmap.
If you have a more junior team, then start with something they can relate to and work your way up.
For example, instead of laying out your full objective for the next five years, announce your goals for the next quarter and mention how achieving them will tie into your strategic objective.
It can be difficult to tone down your approach and present smaller objectives. Remember to communicate clearly with more junior teams, so they’re able to connect the dots between what they’re doing and the company’s overall goals.
Factor #3: Explaining the Context in Which Each Element of the Roadmap Will Be Executed
When it comes to building an effective technology roadmap, context is everything. Engineering leaders need to know the context of every element on the map so that they can develop the right solutions.
Context makes sure you provide the right solution for the right problem.
Explaining context goes beyond explaining the abstract problem your software hopes to solve. This context ensures that your team will not only provide the right solution for that problem but also that it is the right solution in terms of budget, time constraints, and other requirements.
Where To Get Started
To add context to your technology roadmap, start with constraints. List every restricting detail you can think of in order of importance. Get as specific as you possibly can.
Some examples of common constraints to factor into a roadmap include:
- Needs to serve 1,000 users per minute so that we can onboard all users on our waitlist
- Must be ready to launch in 3 months because we will be featured at a huge industry event
- Requires top-notch security to pass a specific certification so that we can work FinTech clients
The more specific, detailed, and data-driven these constraints are, the better you’ll be able to judge whether or not you meet them.
Building a technology roadmap for your software isn’t easy, but it’s crucial to make sure you have all the right elements in place. These three factors are a good start to help you build an effective digital strategy. If you want to talk further about any of these or learn more about our services, please don’t hesitate to reach out.