Happy’s Essential Skills: Roadmapping Essentials

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Product roadmap: The third type, a product roadmap, generally applies to a single company and possibly their supplier chain. For example, a new smartphone, tablet computer or television for a consumer product company could provide the focus of a product roadmap. Figure 3 depicts TI’s roadmap for DSP and ARM microprocessors as a specific example.

While executed at a much smaller scale, product technology roadmaps still offer attractive benefits such as:

  • Prioritize technology investment and resources
  • Characterize and capture market opportunities
  • Respond to competitive threats
  • Identify critical technologies, skills and core competencies needed to remain competitive


Figure 3: TI Digital Signal Processor & ARM Micro-Processor Roadmap.

Roadmapping Process

The technology roadmapping process conducts three phases (Figure 4): preliminary activities, the development of the roadmap, and the follow-up activities phase. Because the process is too big for one model, the phases are modeled separately. In the models no different roles are made; this is because everything is done by the participants as a group.


Figure 4: Essential roadmapping process of five stages.

Phase 1: Preliminary phase

Technology roadmaps generally attempt to answer, at some level, the questions listed in Figure 4. This process conforms to the normal brainstorming practices in widespread use. The first phase, the preliminary phase, consists of 3 steps:

  1. Satisfy essential conditions
  2. Provide leadership/sponsorship
  3. Define the scope and boundaries for the technology roadmap

In this phase the key decision makers must identify that they have a problem and that technology roadmapping can help them in solving the problem.

1. Satisfy essential conditions

In this step it must become clear what the conditions are (they have to be identified) and if they are not met, that somebody will take the actions necessary to meet the unmet conditions. These conditions include, for example: there must be a need for the technology roadmap, input and participation from several different parts of the organization (e.g., marketing, R&D, the strategic business units) with different planning horizon and different perspectives, and the process should be needs driven. All the conditions should be satisfied (or someone is going to take the actions necessary) in order to continue to the next step. The participants can have zero or more conditions of their own. It applies to all the conditions that they have the attribute to be met or not.

2. Provide leadership/sponsorship

Committed leadership is needed because time and effort is involved in creating the technology roadmap. Additionally, the leadership should come from one of the participants, one of them provides leadership/sponsorship. This means that the line organization must drive the process and use the roadmap to make resource allocation decisions.

3. Define the scope and boundaries for the technology roadmap

In this step, the context for the roadmap will be specified. In the company a vision should exist and it must be clear that the roadmap can support that vision. If the vision does not exist, one should be developed and clearly stated. When that is done the boundaries and the scope of the roadmap should be specified. Furthermore, the planning horizon and the level of details should be set. The scope can be further divided into the technology scope and the participation scope.

Phase 2: Development phase

The second phase, the development of the technology roadmap phase, consists of five steps:

  1. Identify the product or critical system that will be the focus of the roadmap
  2. Define desired end state and specify the major technology areas
  3. Specify the technology drivers and their targets, identifying technology alternatives and their timelines
  4. (a) Recommend and prioritize the technology alternatives that should be pursued, and (b) optimize if possible.
  5. Create the technology roadmap report

1. Identify the product or critical system that will be the focus of the roadmap.

This first step establishes the current position relative to the competition with market research and business intelligence, identifies gaps that might exist in the market, and identifies and quantifies principal trends and drivers establishing context for the roadmap.

Being pre-competitive, industry sector roadmaps frequently disregard the current competitive environment and instead emphasize historical market trends.

  • Business objectives (not just strategy or goals, but quantifiable objectives)
  • Functional needs
  • High impact business processes or cycles
  • Organization (current operating model)
  • Cost and complexity drivers
  • Business and technical assets (some call these artifacts) 
2. Define the desired end state.

The second stage articulates aspirations for the future. New products, processes, and services get defined in some detail. Some better examples I expect would include:

  • Performance targets (cash flow, profitability, velocity (cycle or PCE), growth, customer intimacy)
  • Operating model improvements
  • Guiding principals 
3. Specify the technology drivers and their targets, identifying technology alternatives and their timelines.

Begin to evaluate the delta between who we realistically are, and what we truly want to become. Armed with a clear understanding of where we are and where we want to be, the actionable activities begin to fall out and become evident. Gap closure strategies can then begin to be discussed, shared, and resolved into any number of possibilities usually involving the following initiatives:

  • Organizational
  • Functional
  • Architectural (technology)
  • Process
  • Reward or economic incentives 


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