How to Create a Strategic IT Roadmap for Success

By: Alan Seal on September 17, 2019

Information technology is an essential component of almost every organization today. If a company fails to account for the relationship between its business goals and its IT strategy, it could very easily find itself at a competitive disadvantage in the future. That’s why the most effective CIOs put substantial time and energy into developing an IT roadmap that accounts for these complex technology needs.

Value of a Technology Roadmap

Organizations obviously want to be strategic in the way they develop and deploy technology that supports their business and empowers innovation. Without a firm plan for how to implement new IT solutions, it’s easy to fall into a reactive cycle that focuses more on addressing short-term needs rather than thinking about how to lay the groundwork for driving business priorities over a longer timeframe.

An IT roadmap provides a documented strategy for how to accomplish those goals. Developed by the CIO in consultation with leadership and the IT department, a good technology roadmap helps everyone in the organization achieve alignment on future IT goals. The plan helps the organization’s leadership understand why the CIO is prioritizing specific investments and projects while also providing the IT team with a guide for provisioning resources, developing processes, and planning implementation going forward.

IT Roadmap Template

Typically, an IT roadmap provides a three to five-year plan to facilitate prioritized business goals. When building a roadmap, IT leaders should be sure to address a number of important considerations:

  • Statement of Purpose: The plan should list key business priorities that the IT department should be working to facilitate.
  • A Timeline: Every project should be clearly scoped in terms of when it will be implemented, how long it will take to complete, and what other projects it might affect.
  • Prioritization List: It’s unrealistic to expect every project to be completed at the same time. Every potential IT improvement or upgrade should be assessed to make sure that the most high-value projects are tackled first.
  • Project Justifications: Since technology changes are often both expensive and disruptive for an organization, the IT roadmap should clearly indicate why each project is necessary and operations will be improved as a result.
  • Cost Assessments: While it can be difficult to calculate the exact cost of IT updates, the technology roadmap should evaluate the price of every project as accurately as possible to make budgeting planning easier.
  • Assign Responsibilities: Every project needs to have an owner who is responsible for implementing and following through on the prospective changes. Assigning projects helps to improve accountability and makes it easier to assess progress.

IT Roadmap Examples

There is no strict format for creating a strategic roadmap. The scope of a technology roadmap can range from very narrow, focusing on a plan for implementing a single piece of software, or much broader, identifying a wide range of goals targeted across the organization. Depending upon how ambitious an IT roadmap has to be, there are several different ways to format a plan to highlight key benchmarks and make it easy for various stakeholders to identify priorities.

Roadmapping Challenges

While most IT roadmaps tend to focus on a three to five-year time horizon, this underestimates the potential impact of rapid technological change. Planning out an IT strategy out for several years might have made perfect sense even a decade ago, but innovation is happening so quickly today that it’s all but impossible to predict what pressures will be guiding IT strategy even a year from now, much less three to five.

Today’s CIOs need to take a more agile approach to their IT roadmaps to account for this uncertainty. The key challenge is that it becomes harder to predict how something will change over an extended time horizon. Determining what the IT landscape will look like three years from now involves a large degree of guesswork, even if those predictions are informed by plenty of data. However, it’s much easier to evaluate what technology conditions will be six months or a year from the present.

A good IT roadmap should accommodate this uncertainty by establishing clear check-in or reassessment points every three to four months. By building these checkpoints into a roadmap, CIOs leave themselves the flexibility to change course or double down on various initiatives based on new information. This prevents them from becoming locked into commitments that might have made sense at one point, but now need to be reevaluated due to changes in business needs or technological innovation.

Building a roadmap for information technology is one of the most challenging tasks for any CIO because it forces them to make long-term predictions about future IT needs. With a good IT roadmap in place, however, it’s much easier to achieve organizational alignment between strategic and IT leadership. By accounting for the potential for unforeseen change, CIOs can also build IT roadmaps that allow them to retain short term flexibility while also pursuing a long-term technology vision.

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