It’s that simple: if you want your project to take flight and hit the mark, you need to steer it every step of the way. And when it comes to software development, so much technology is involved that keeping track of it and planning your tasks can be a challenge, to say the least.
Technology roadmaps keep your team focused on your goal and outline the tech tools and approaches they need to achieve it. In just a few minutes, I will tell you what roadmaps are, how they work, and when to use them. In addition, I’ll provide you with a few technology roadmap templates to choose from.
But first, back to basics.
What’s a technology roadmap?
The term technology roadmap describes both the main deliverable and the process of long-term planning of a project’s objectives in conjunction with your technology stack. It’s a high-level visual representation of the technology choices mapped onto your development strategy.
There are a few ways how a technology roadmap could be done. Below is a typical timeline view, where all plans are laid out on a schedule, so you and your team can focus on the when.
And here is a board view of a roadmap, for those times you’re more interested in what crucial tasks the team is performing — now, soon, and in the long run.
For those projects where you need to dive into the details, an item view is the option of choice. Set priorities and monitor progress of every individual assignment.
Go with a chart view if you want your priorities clearly visible. The colored circles differ in size depending on how urgent or important a task is.
A roadmap can cover anything from a few months up to several years. During this time, projects grow and business goals change, and so do tech needs and requirements. By looking at the technology roadmap at any given moment, stakeholders should be able to see:
- All the tech solutions that are currently implemented, as well as how they support your company’s objectives.
- A timeline of the steps and phases of implementing new tech, along with the resources each step will require.
- Any redundancies or inefficiencies in the tech stack, like technologies that will soon become obsolete and those that can be reused in different scenarios.
- The overall level of resilience that the technology provides, for example, whether your business can sustain critical functions in the event of a disruption.
- The costs associated with IT upgrades.
One of the great things about roadmaps is that you can apply them to almost any objective. Having a tech roadmap can make life much easier for your team on a whole host of IT projects, such as:
- Adopting new technology (and building infrastructure from scratch)
- Carrying out a software migration
- Unifying disparate systems
- Ensuring business continuity
- Performing system upgrades
In general, whenever you decide to make significant technological changes in your organization, you should make building a roadmap your priority. In the process, you’ll gain insights into current operations and get a better grasp of how things can be improved. Skip this step, and the risk of complications down the line increases dramatically.
Still on the fence about using a tech roadmap? Let’s help you decide by listing the benefits for your teams and their leaders.
Who can directly benefit from technology roadmaps?
To save you the suspense, everyone can — for their own reasons:
- Your technology managers — because CTO would have a transparent agenda and know that all team members are aware of it
- Your functional leaders — as clearly defined timelines and actions will help them synchronize efforts across departments.
- Your staff and project teams — because working in an environment with coherent objectives, milestones, and rules is healthy, rewarding, and makes adopting any tech innovations easier.
If you’re a tech leader, negotiating with other key stakeholders to develop a technology roadmap is in your best interest. If you’re not, it’s still a good idea to give the management a little nudge in the right direction.
Why? Because introducing roadmaps can add the necessary structure, logic, and precision to your planning process. A well-thought-out tech roadmap will instill confidence and attract investors to your project.
Sounds good? Then let’s get started by choosing the right type of roadmap, depending on what you intend to achieve.
Types of technology roadmaps
There are so many kinds of roadmaps out there, and it’s easy to get lost. At Altigee, we like to talk about things we know first-hand. So here we’ll tell you about the three types of technology roadmaps most relevant to our work as a software company.
IT roadmaps are great if you’re a business incorporating tech solutions into your workflow. Let’s say you’re a retail company creating a customer web portal. An IT roadmap will describe the software development and testing process, along with the plan for migrating existing data and onboarding employees.
This IT roadmap example from Roadmunk shows a detailed timeline with high-level descriptions of the changes to be implemented, grouped into strategic categories.
This kind of roadmap gives your company’s CTOs, CIOs, and other tech managers insights into things like
- What new tech solutions are in the pipeline for implementation, and what the schedule is
- The business objectives they will help achieve
- What the organization can gain from these IT initiatives on a larger scale
Compared to an IT roadmap, a development roadmap is more specific and relates to the complex work your devs will be doing. It’s a safe space for developers to sync on their goals and methods. Your engineering teams should be able to focus on the progress and react to requirement changes in an agile way.
Here’s what a software development roadmap might look like:
While this kind of roadmap has the most benefit for developers, other departments can have access to it as well. This way, all teams on the project get a better understanding of the timeline for different milestones, whether it’s urgent new features or other IT-related updates they are expecting.
Modern organizations can use anywhere from a few to several hundred applications in their workflows. Keeping up with the existing tools may already be a hurdle, but then there’s also the need to update them for better productivity. Application roadmaps can provide a clear, structured view of the different software used by each department, organized by the purpose they serve. Using these roadmaps helps companies efficiently manage their application portfolios, make better software choices, and control the implementation of new apps.
Here’s an app update roadmapping example that outlines different app categories and the steps for transition.
With a roadmap like this, your IT administrators and managerial staff can monitor which apps are in use and follow the process of maintaining or updating them.
Now that you’ve seen some technology roadmap examples and understood the main types, it’s time to talk about the actual perks of using them.
Key use cases and benefits of implementing a roadmap
Whether you use a ready-made technology roadmap template or create your own from scratch, the list of advantages you get is impressive. Here we’ll look at some typical situations where a roadmap can really save the day.
Start pitching the idea of a technology roadmap if you need to do any of these things:
- Get your IT experts and executives aligned on the plan. It’s not always easy for these two branches to agree on critical issues. Creating a roadmap is the perfect opportunity.
- Communicate the benefits of investing in innovation and technology to top management and other stakeholders. Do it now. They’ll thank you later.
- Allocate resources, plan expenses, and mitigate risks, since roadmaps provide a framework you can build on.
- Keep your team on track when the big things happen. Plans and schedules help people know what to expect and when, taking away the element of an unpleasant surprise.
The advantages of using a tech roadmap don’t end there. It’s also a win-win situation for you as a tech manager. In essence, you will:
- Get a clearer view of how efficient your IT infrastructure is for achieving business goals. This is an inevitable benefit of analyzing the current procedures and planning changes.
- Identify IT-related issues. Sure, some weak points will surface, but that’s what you want.
- Cut costs by upgrading or replacing inefficient software. These changes may be long overdue: here’s your chance to find the culprit.
- Increase productivity and output. Sponsors and shareholders will be thrilled with this one.
- Access and prevent risks. These include both risks already present and ones that may appear in the process.
Now as you know about all the benefits of technology roadmaps, the next stage is to talk about what makes a great roadmap.
The core components of a tech roadmap
Here’s a typical checklist of what you should include in your roadmap:
- A strategy statement. A high-level description of your strategic goals is crucial, both for negotiating with management and for the implementation phase.
- A timeline of the initiatives. This keeps everyone on the same page. It’s especially valuable if you’re in a larger organization where energies can flag or dissipate.
- A list of improvements with clearly defined priorities. By defining the logical order of the tasks at hand, you create the project’s backbone.
- The primary justifications for each step. Stakeholders need to see the reasoning behind investments and the prospective outcomes.
- The cost and duration estimates for each project. This ensures fund allocation and accountability.
- A list of project owners. This assigns responsibilities for managing and monitoring progress.
And now that we’ve covered most of the theory, let’s see how you can create your own tech roadmap.
How to design and plan your technology roadmap
For starters, there are a few simple rules to follow. I’ll run you through them, then share our proven steps for building a good roadmap.
These recommendations might sound obvious, but they’re worth keeping in mind. Your roadmap should be
- Easy to understand and present. You’ll have to make a strong case, so try to avoid using overly complicated structures and too much data. Make it scannable, comprehensive, and clear-cut. The quicker your stakeholders can grasp the benefits of your plan, the better your chances of getting a green light.
- Realistic. Use the “underpromise and overdeliver” approach. Project feasible deadlines and sensible resource allocation estimates. You don’t want your team members to work overtime and burn out trying to hit impossible goals.
- Agile. Allow room for change, and employ flexible methods for achieving your business objectives. Market conditions fluctuate, business needs evolve, and your project may take a different trajectory a year from now. Be ready.
Here are the five basic steps to creating a quality technical roadmap.
- Determine your goals. When your mind is set on presenting a detailed strategy, it’s easy to lose sight of the initial reasoning. Knowing what every IT initiative achieves and what the business can gain from it always comes first.
- Choose your TA. You need to have a clear understanding of the audience you’ll be presenting your pitch to. Revise your roadmap to make sure you’re speaking their language. Find a middle ground between sounding too technical and delivering your key messages to decision-makers.
- Turn objectives into plans. Break your goals down into action items. Then, place them on the timeline, so stakeholders can see what happens when.
- Share with stakeholders. It’s time to pitch your brainchild to the executives. Be ready to answer questions and act on feedback.
- Brief your team. It’s your responsibility to make sure everyone understands their place in the plan.
You’re almost fully equipped to tackle the task of planning and building your first roadmap. However, there are still a few things missing from your toolkit — like a service for creating roadmaps to get you started.
You can create your roadmaps from scratch and integrate them with other project management software, or save yourself some time and use ready-made technology roadmap templates.
Tech roadmap templates to use (with examples)
There are quite a few roadmap templates out there. Here is what successful teams use to plan their work and track progress.
Airtable is an online platform that offers a range of data collaboration solutions as well as free roadmap templates. Click here to access a fully customizable demo version of Airtable’s technology roadmap template.
Another great technology roadmapping example comes from Miro’s extensive library. It’s a highly editable kit that combines great flexibility with a neat design. Depending on the size of your team, you can start with a free option and upgrade to one of the monthly plans.
The giant behind tools like Jira and Trello and the famous Agile knowledge base, Atlassian has a broad selection of roadmap templates to choose from. They’re easily configured and free for teams of up to 10 people.
ProductPlan’s IT strategy roadmap is free for the duration of the trial period and is definitely worth a look. As part of a larger collaboration suite, the templates available on the website can be connected to other project management tools.
A technology roadmap is an indispensable tool for visualizing and managing the progress of an IT-related project. It helps teams see their objectives, plan time and resources, and dramatically increase productivity. All stakeholders gain a better understanding of the project and its stages, which ultimately leads to higher engagement and less friction between the parties involved. Business owners and top management get a chance to assess the entire infrastructure, compile a holistic strategy, cut costs, and future-proof the organization. By following the guidelines above, you’ll be well on your way to creating a great roadmap that keeps you on track.