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Technology roadmaps: the whole is greater than the parts

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle is famed for his writings on the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. And that is the approach we take when working with our customers when shaping their long-term technology roadmap.

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Andy Lamb

Account Chief Technologist

What is a technology roadmap and why does it matter?

A technology roadmap is a strategic plan which clearly outlines the technological advancements that an organisation is planning to utilise today and in the near future.

With the constant release of disruptive new technologies today, it is important businesses have a robust roadmap in place so that they can take advantage of newer technology. By assessing what is available, these businesses can be more adaptable, efficient, benefit from automation and data analysis, and are often quicker to bring new products to market. By comparison, businesses that fail to adapt are at risk of falling behind and potentially jeopardising their long-term sustainability.

Common pitfalls of a poor technology roadmap

The short-termist

Too often a technology roadmap is designed to fix immediate, short-term problems. It is updated once a year out of necessity. The issue with roadmaps designed this way is that the scope is too narrow and does not support the business in achieving its long-term goals.

Common characteristics of a short-term roadmap:

  • Replacing aging hardware or software, especially if it is soon to drop out of support and maintenance agreements
  • Shifts to a more agile and mobile workforce
  • Systems feeling the strain of a growing organisation, which has out stripped the capacity and role it was built for
  • Performance degrading to the point the user base is becoming restless
  • Security enhancements driven by near misses or the latest press articles about organisations who have had a breach or a large fine

The next shiny thing

On the other end, there are forward-thinking organisations who look beyond what needs to be upgraded or replaced. They want to be cutting edge, reviewing whitepapers and articles from researchers outlining top tech trends for the next year and invest in exciting industries like machine learning, artificial intelligence, and zero trust.

There is a problem here too. This only looks at the technology view. It isn’t the whole picture.

Getting to the bigger picture

Aristotle produced one of the best and simplest ideologies for a roadmap in 350BC when he famously said the “whole could be greater than the sum of its parts”.

When we advise customers on their technology roadmap we want to find out what the organisation’s vision is for the next 3 years, not just from a technology standpoint but as a business.

The key is to understand:

  • What are the business goals and ambitions?
  • How the business plans on achieving it?
  • What is critical to success?

Once we know these we can look at how technology will help them realise their ambitions.

With technology now so heavily integrated into all areas of organisations, every company is, in effect, a technology business. If technology is part of an organisation and used to drive business growth and value, then a good technology roadmap is also a good company roadmap. It needs to combine the inputs from all business units, not just IT.  Security, Finance, HR, Marketing, Facilities, Legal and other departments need to feed into the one unified roadmap, one unified business plan.

The whole is now greater than the sum of its parts.  

A business focused technology roadmap is all about designing a plan that meets the wider needs and ambitions of the whole organisation. A roadmap which encompasses all elements of the business is also more likely to enable the organisation to achieve its goals and achieve success.

This holistic approach often feeds down into the organisation and gives further benefits where departments and individuals are encouraged to perform collaboratively, helping unify the company vision, solidify the company brand.  

This ensures the holistic technology roadmap is a roadmap to businesses success.

Author: Andy Lamb – Account Chief Technologist

Andy is a senior IT leader who focus on customers’ business outcomes and helps them find the right technology to achieve their goals.  His holistic approach to consulting includes the people, process as well as the technology to build roadmaps and target operating models for the continued success of our customers.