IT Strategic Roadmaps: A Commentary

What is an IT Strategic Roadmap?  Most people look at them as a plan to defines the long and short-term goals for a product or solution within Information Technology.  While this is technically true, I believe this is a rather shallow way of looking at things.  If we look at this from a holistic view, a proper IT Strategic Roadmap – or any roadmap for that matter – can be a key driver in the success of the overall business unit.  To utilize these roadmaps in a such a way, it becomes necessary to stop looking at them with a focus on the product, but rather on the process.  When you do this right, you gain insight into the business – being able to make better technology decisions with strategy at the core.

How do we do this?  Well, first you must identify the product that will be the focus on the roadmap in question.  When I say, “product”, I mean solution.  In some cases, you may be product specific, but it pays to avoid it where possible.  Use the following phrase:

We need a technology solution that provides ________.

Avoid, the use of vendor and/or technology specific language that can pin you into a box.  We don’t like boxes.  This solution may need to provide more than one feature or function.  For example, let’s answer this question (in priority order):

  1. Provides user authentication for systems access across a broad spectrum of environments.
  2. Provides a framework for storing user access control information.
  3. Provides a foundational infrastructure for development of a security boundary to ensure information security.
  4. Allows for easy integration into other systems and environments using industry standard protocols.

Really, we all know what I am talking about here, right?  NetIQ eDirectory.  Perhaps Active Directory, IBM Tivoli Directory Server, OpenLDAP, or Samba4?  Keep it open.  Allow yourself flexibility.

Once you have the provisos (we all know that my list is short – when you work with the Business Unit, which you should, you will have a much larger list) that are required, you can identify the products that may fit the bill.

From this list, you can create a requirement(s) to product(s) matrix that will be used to identify all the key requirements from the business and the technology units and map them to the technology products which you can then start eliminating from the options pool.  Once you eliminate, then you can pick your product.  From there – you build out your roadmap to include:

  • Key Business & Technology Sponsors
  • A Review Schedule
  • Scope and Boundaries – You have essentially done this. However, roadmaps are living and breathing documents that should be cyclic in nature so this data needs to be in it for future cycle reviews.
  • Implementation Plans
  • Maintenance Plans

Is there more to it that this?  Yes.  Much more.  However, the keys to success with any planning engagement at any level that are often forgotten can be summed up with:

  • Don’t plan, roadmap, purchase, budget, or develop in a box. Information Technology needs to engage the business, and the business needs to engage Information Technology.  Use a consultant to help bridge the gap if needed.
  • Keep an open mind. Be technology agnostic.  Your way may not always be the right way.  Be flexible.
  • Don’t neglect your plan. Keep it up to date.  Review it – with all stakeholders – on a periodic basis.

These apply to all aspects of planning.  Remember, failure to plan is a sure fire way to plan to fail.