Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Roadmapping in the Corporation: Product-Technology Roadmaps Define and Communicate Product and Technology Strategy along with a Longer, Smarter View of the Future

Academic journal article Research-Technology Management

Roadmapping in the Corporation: Product-Technology Roadmaps Define and Communicate Product and Technology Strategy along with a Longer, Smarter View of the Future

Article excerpt

In a corporation, an important need for roadmapping is at the product-line level. Product-Technology Roadmaps in the corporate setting are used to define the plan for the evolution of a product, linking business strategy to the evolution of the product features and costs to the technologies needed to achieve the strategic objective. This article describes the experience of Lucent Technologies in deployment and use of the roadmapping methodology during the past several years. A small group shepherded the deployment and use of roadmaps during that time, and the format and application described here have evolved with the experience gained.

Deploying roadmaps across a corporation helps achieve several key objectives. For each product line, roadmaps link market strategy to product plans to technology plans. Roadmaps created at the product line level are the base for corporate technology planning, identifying needs, gaps, strengths and weaknesses in a common language across the corporation. Roadmaps help focus attention on longer-term planning and improve communication and ownership of plans. Finally, the process helps focus a team's thinking on the few most important priorities at each step of the planning process:

* Linking strategy to product plans to technology plans.--Creating the roadmap story means explicitly describing the why's for each key decision in the plan. Typically, strategies, product plans and technology plans are created independently by the people responsible for them. Roadmaps explicitly create the linkages, first linking strategic choices based on market needs and the competitive environment to product evolution and feature implementations, and then linking product plans to technology implementation plans.

* Enabling corporate-level technology plans.--With roadmaps for several product lines, it is possible to look across the roadmaps for common needs that may be met by a single development program or technology acquisition. This can be done by analyzing a database of roadmaps or with cross-roadmap reviews where product teams come together to identify common needs. Time-to-market improvements and other platform opportunities can result. Besides overlaps, cross-roadmapping activity can address hidden gaps and identify key strengths that can be deployed in other areas of the business.

* Focus on longer-term planning.--Today's business climate can lead to a focus on short-term thinking, often tied to the reporting needs of the budget cycle or the next deliverable. Roadmapping helps to focus the attention of the team on future product generations, initiating longer-term projects or technology acquisitions so that their outputs will be ready when needed. For technologies with long lead times, the choice to develop or acquire is a near-term decision with long-term consequences.

* Improving communication and ownership of plans.--The use of a cross-functional team to create a product line plan allows the members of the team to develop a shared plan. All share in the creation of the plan, developing ownership across functions. Roadmapping provides a common vocabulary that is shared across the team with diverse backgrounds such as product management, marketing, sales, research and development, manufacturing, project management, logistics, etc. The team develops its roadmap in a step-by-step fashion, building on each team member's special knowledge. The process is usually iterative, as the team realizes that the plan it has set out is not feasible or that there is a better alternative.

* Focus planning on the highest-priority topics.--A key goal of roadmapping is to identify and focus strategy and product development on the few most important elements for success. At every stage of roadmap development, the group strives to define the two or three most important drivers, elements or issues. In this way, the focus is kept on identifying the highest priorities. As the roadmap is developed and implemented, the team identifies gaps and the actions to close the gaps. …

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