Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Putting Technology on the Road: Technology Roadmapping Has Become One of the Key Visual Tools in GM's Technology Management Process

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Putting Technology on the Road: Technology Roadmapping Has Become One of the Key Visual Tools in GM's Technology Management Process

Article excerpt

The global Technology Management Group (TMG) formed by General Motors in 1999 was charged with these key initiatives: manage and prioritize portfolios of advanced technical work, allocating funding for advanced technology, decrease time to market for new technology, eliminate project duplication globally, improve communications, increase the number of projects reaching production, and improve efficiency and effectiveness. General Motors had started downsizing, leaving few individuals receptive to additional tasks. Project management required a new philosophy. There needed to be less bureaucracy, more simplicity, and fast action. There needed to be more visual tools; it was increasingly difficult to manage projects as "lists of lists."

Linking advanced technology development timing to the product plan was a key success factor. Previously, many advanced technology projects could be directed by the internal Automotive Component Group. This group was spun off to Delphi, creating another challenge. Projects now had to be completed with a number of suppliers, all of which acted in their best interests. TMG was faced with challenging objectives and required a new mindset, processes and relationships.

Implementing Technology Roadmapping

To accomplish these objectives, Technology Planning, a subgroup of the TMG, decided that technology roadmapping would be implemented. Roadmapping had a varied history at GM. Many groups had their own unique processes and formats in their roadmapping; there was no common data source or update process. Nevertheless, Technology Planning collected examples of past internal roadmapping projects. GM also looked externally by joining the MATI (Management of Accelerated Technology and Innovation) consortium that was described in Part 1 of this roadmapping special report (1).

MATI membership provided insight and shared experience with other companies. Member companies were very open to sharing knowledge and suggesting ways to ensure success. GM saved considerable effort in researching roadmapping and getting the process launched (2.3,4).

GM selected a simple technology roadmap format that was being successfully used at Saab, and the concept had spread to the International Technical Development Center in Ruesselsheim, Germany. The format used an X-axis representing the model year and a Y-axis for increasing performance. The roadmap was developed across a 10-year period with an oval symbol containing the project title.

After producing the initial roadmaps, it was realized that different groups had different data requirements. Senior management wanted a high-level overview, functional groups wanted detailed items specific to their area, while vehicle programs wanted to know just what would be available for their vehicles. Similarly, large cross-functional project teams also wanted only that data pertinent to their projects. Consequently, the format was modified to include more information. The oval was converted to a rectangle; the left edge signified the project start with the fight edge indicating readiness for first application. A solid border showed that a project was funded. Unfunded projects received dotted borders. (See Figure 1.)

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Data for Roadmaps

The next challenge involved infusing the roadmaps with data. Data had to be global to eliminate redundant projects. It was critical that the data be timely, accurate and meaningful. A real-time, web-based database was created for existing and planned projects. Each database entry contained such items as a project title and description, budget, development stage, key personnel, technical impact, cost, and planned applications. The database provided a single site for access to the latest information on all projects and could be accessed from anywhere within the corporate intranet.

The initial reaction was not overwhelming! While some groups agreed it would benefit other groups, it was argued that the database did not help the initiating group. …

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