Definition: What Is Roadmapping?
Roadmapping is a method for strategic long-term planning, implementation and visualization of innovations, products and technologies, broken down to the necessary resources, steps and milestones and aligned with the corporate strategy.
With roadmapping you can answer very different kinds of questions:
- Which trends and markets will influence our future business?
- Which products do we want to offer?
- With the help of which technologies, competencies, and resources can we achieve our goals?
Definition: What Is a Roadmap?
A roadmap is a visual representation of the innovation milestones and deliverables required to manage an organization’s transition from its current state to a future state over a specific time period. It can structure innovation projects into individual steps which are easier to handle whereby uncertainties and possible scenarios for achieving objectives can be analyzed on different levels. An innovation roadmap examines several developments on four levels: market, product, technology, and resource.
Roadmaps are a widely used method in strategic planning. In practice, the use of roadmaps is mostly driven by solutions and technologies. An extension of this technological view to the dimensions of future markets, products, and resources allows a holistic analysis of the proposed company situation.
Time inconsistencies and gaps in technology and product development can be identified through the integrated view of the four dimensions and addressed within the scope of strategic planning.
Why Are Roadmaps Important?
Any company that wants to be competitive in the long term in an uncertain and complex environment must systematically analyze and forecast future developments. Most executives report a gap between strategy and product development. The method of roadmapping offers an ideal tool for structured planning, implementation, and visualization of your innovations as well as the corporate strategy.
With roadmaps you can:
- Plan and steer future product developments and technologies.
- Raise company-wide alignment.
- Deliver a high-level overview of products, technologies and resources.
- Understand the current state of your company at a glance.
- Do day-to-day operational planning and execution.
- Predict future needs such as key technologies and resources.
- Detect time inconsistencies and synergies in strategic planning early on.
How Do I Create a Roadmap?
Step 1: Define individual goals
The first question you should address at the very beginning of roadmapping: What do we want to achieve with roadmapping in our company? This question is essential since a corresponding commitment can only be achieved through a presentable benefit.
Step 2: Agree on the type of roadmap, timeframe, and degree of detail
Depending on the objective and the company, different dimensions must be taken into account. Essentially, there are three dimensions:
- Timeframe: Is your roadmap designed for the short, medium or long term?
- The degree of detail: In what depth and with what details will the roadmap be created?
- Type of roadmap: What should be in focus or be identified?
Step 3: Involve stakeholders and create commitment
The next step for fast and effective development and implementation of a roadmap is the clear and binding identification of the people involved and their responsibilities. This creates the necessary commitment and intrinsic motivation. A roadmap drives communication within a company. It is therefore not just a tool for the executive board and top management. Rather, the explicit goal must be to integrate the affected departments into the process as early as possible. Clear responsibility for methodological competence, coordination and input must be communicated and lived as clearly and transparently as possible.
Step 4: Create roadmap structure and process
The basic structure of a roadmap initially distinguishes between three main levels (so-called main layers), which are framed by a sensibly selected timeline (at least +5 years). The three layers are:
- Why: Market (incl. sublayers such as trends, drivers, barriers, customers, stakeholders)
- What: Products and Services (incl. products and services offered by the company)
- How: Resources (incl. personnel, employee skills, finance, real estate or strategic partnerships)
These layers can be adapted and/or supplemented from company to company according to individual requirements.
Step 5: Integrate the roadmap into higher-level innovation management
In order to unleash the full benefits, roadmaps should be integrated into the overarching innovation management process. After opportunity identification, idea assessment, and concept development comes the hardest part of innovation management: Where and when should we position our innovations?
In practice, the use of roadmaps is mostly solution and technology-driven. Only linking future markets, products, technologies, and resources in a temporal context enables stringent planning and implementation of innovations. Roadmaps visualize and contextualize dependencies in innovation implementation. The aggregation of several individual roadmaps to an overall, integrated innovation roadmap enables top-down and bottom-up strategic planning for the next 3-20 years.
Step 6: Frequently update and communicate the roadmap
Based on the type, you will update your roadmap at different frequencies. A product roadmap may be updated weekly with new features, whereas a company-wide roadmap may only be touched once a quarter or possibly once a year. The Why of your roadmap should remain constant. However, the What and How may change over time. Strategy changes, in particular, result in fairly significant changes to your roadmap. It is advisable to communicate the effects widely.
How Do I Communicate a Roadmap to My Stakeholders?
Because roadmaps are so important to the strategic direction of the entire organization, users and relevant stakeholders should be involved in the process in a timely manner. Going straight from roadmap creation to implementation without involving key departments will not work that way. The process involves iteration, but also two-way feedback and communication should be part of each step.
Communication can follow two approaches: Bottom-up or top-down.
If we plan far into the future, a top-down approach is more likely to take place. The goals at all hierarchical levels are aligned with the goals of the company as a whole, as top management itself controls the work of all departments. Therefore, the roadmap visions and goals are created at the highest hierarchy level and then communicated to the levels below.
Short-term planning is usually bottom-up. In the bottom-up approach, roadmaps are developed at the lowest levels and then communicated to the next level up. A bottom-up approach helps improve employee collaboration as everyone is involved in the decision-making process and has an influence on how the strategy is tactically implemented.
Different Roadmap Types
There are 5 types of roadmaps in innovation:
- Technology Roadmap
- Product Roadmap
- Project Roadmap
- Integrated Roadmap
- Company-wide Roadmap
What is a Technology Roadmap?
Technology roadmaps involve focusing on one or more technologies - regardless of suppliers on the market. The result of such a technology roadmap is an overview of opportunities and risks (and/ or barriers) for the management of a company. It often makes sense for the results of a technology roadmap to also be presented in a technology radar.
What is a Product Roadmap?
The range of services can also be the focus of a roadmap. This refers to the current and future product range. Product and innovation roadmaps deal with the planning of new products and innovative development projects, often considering the underlying technologies.
What is a Project Roadmap?
A project roadmap is a visual and strategic overview of the goals and deliverables of a project over a certain time period. Compared to a project plan, which details the individual project steps, the roadmap is meant to be simple and avoid too many details. Project managers can use project roadmaps and the roadmapping method as a powerful toolkit to manage stakeholder expectations, communicate strategy, and coordinate resources with other teams involved in a project.
What is an Integrated Roadmap?
Integrated roadmaps consider several topics in parallel, such as product and technology planning. Depending on the focus, a roadmap comprises different dimensions (also called levels or layers) in different depths (also called lanes): products, technologies, markets, resources, drivers, projects, corporate goals or milestones.
What Is a Company-Wide Roadmap?
A company-wide roadmap is a special form of the integrated roadmap. The company is considered a complete system. Technologies and products of a company are evaluated in the "complete ecosystem" of the company. This means that existing technologies can be associated with new products (technology push), which in turn are determined by existing trends and change drivers. But the opposite (market pull) is also conceivable. Here, so-called "white spots" become visible that have not yet been considered in the company or are not currently available - e.g., technologies or resources.
Which Roadmap Software Should I Use?
The high effort associated with the creation and updating of roadmaps deters many companies. In addition to the effort required to create roadmaps for the first time, difficulties in maintaining roadmaps are often cited as the main obstacle to the effective use of roadmaps. ITONICS Roadmap is a collaborative roadmap software tool used in companies for strategic planning of products, markets, technologies and resources.
By dynamically integrating different business units, it can reveal multiple cross-divisional synergies, e.g., in technology and product development. The aggregation of numerous individual roadmaps into one overarching, integrated roadmap enables a top-down and bottom-up analysis of strategic planning for the next 5-20 years.
The ITONICS Roadmap Tool integrates technology and resource planning into the innovation management process on an intuitive browser-based user interface. This enables holistic forecasts to be made about future technology and product developments and the associated investment decisions.
How to use ITONICS Roadmap Templates
The ITONICS Roadmap templates are based on the most common roadmap types used in different industries. When creating a new roadmap in ITONICS, they can be used to develop a roadmap faster with a given structure. Learn more about the different roadmap templates available to you!
Start your free trial and set up your own roadmap in a few steps!
What Is a Best Practice Example of Roadmapping?
On the way to becoming the Australasian leader in sustainable building products, construction, and distribution, Fletcher Building is using the ITONICS Roadmap Software to align its strategic goals to internal and external innovation activities. To create company-wide synergies, generate evidence and transparency, the innovation platform of ITONICS was integrated and closely aligned with Fletcher Building‘s mission to fuel growth opportunities, innovation success, and company-wide collaboration.
By visualizing and contextualizing market and technology trends with the defined innovation projects on an integrated roadmap, dependencies in innovation implementation become visible.
The roadmap levels represent the company's overarching strategic initiatives: environmental footprint, product innovation, modular/prefabricated systems, multi-family housing, distribution role, and supply chain.
"To firmly anchor innovation as the driver of growth in our company, we have actively sought a partner who could consult and support us best in innovation enablement and company-wide collaboration. The ITONICS platform has become an integral part of the innovation culture and is contributing to the cross-pollination of pioneering growth opportunities at Fletcher Building."
– Dr. Lisbeth Jacobs, General Manager Innovation and Sustainability, Fletcher Building