Why Every Company Needs a Technology Roadmap

Why Every Company Needs a Technology Roadmap

In today’s world, every company needs to function as a technology company. eCommerce? Of course – without tech, there is no e in commerce. Auto manufacturers? You bet — carmakers spend at least as much time and energy on developing the software that runs their vehicles as they do getting the mechanics right. Healthcare? Absolutely — just ask the folks at Ascension Health, America’s largest Catholic hospital chain and the victim of a cyberattack that left nurses and doctors scrambling to take notes by hand and send patient orders by fax.

When every company is a technology company, it means that all key stakeholders, not just the IT teams, need a high-level understanding of the role technology initiatives play in achieving business goals from product development to strategic planning.

What is a Technology Roadmap?

Let’s start with a definition. A technology roadmap is a blueprint that lays out how the company will use technology to achieve its business objectives. Sometimes called an IT roadmap, a tech roadmap shapes a company’s technical infrastructure, organizes and prioritizes goals, and works in tandem with IT to accomplish business initiatives.

That requires a tech product roadmap that sets out a strategic plan for ways tech can power business milestones, a timeframe for tech upgrades, workflows for new product integration, and metrics for measuring success.

While there are many types of technology roadmaps and many easily managed roadmap software templates, the common thread is a vision of the company’s needs and the ways in which new technology can meet those needs.

It should include an overview of the company’s current IT infrastructure and all planned IT initiatives. Then it should address the company’s long-term goals by suggesting technology solutions that can pave the way in everything from website user experience and cybersecurity to inventory management and data reporting to a complete digital transformation.

Why Every Company Needs a Tech Roadmap

“Most companies can and do manage their money and people, which is a necessity,” says Chief Information Officer (CIO) David Mitchelhill.

“But unfortunately, quite often they abstain from understanding the technology, which is basically the IP of their company. If you think of a company as a building, the people you need to design the building so that it will stand up to every storm are totally different from the people who run it on a daily basis. Companies need to hire the architects.”

Most importantly, navigating the technology landscape requires flexibility. Technology projects must adapt to accommodate the real-time, lightning-fast disruption that comes from technological advancements like artificial intelligence, which has rocked our world.

“The chaos and rapid change doesn’t allow one person or one group to really obtain all the skills necessary to accomplish a particular market issue that they’re really going after with technology,” interim CIO Kevin Malover says.

He points specifically to the practice of relying on IT to solve business problems.

“Rather than empowering the business owner to solve the problem, a lot of times they just pile it on the CIO or CTO’s plate and say, ‘Hey, you go solve this business problem.’ The reality is they’re not generally responsible for the P&L associated with it. People ask, ‘What’s your IT strategy?’ The question should be, ‘What’s your business strategy and how’s IT going to enable that?’”

What Are the Benefits of a Technology Roadmap?

We asked Mitchelhill and Malover, both of whom have run IT operations at multiple businesses, to break down the components of a technology roadmap, the value of an outsider’s perspective, and why staying agile is the key to success.

Every company needs its own unique plan that can address specific scenarios—whether the company is flailing, anticipating acquisition, launching a new project, or simply working to stay competitive.

Malover recommends starting the process by giving your company an M&A-type assessment to better understand what the issues are.

For every company, that checklist looks a little different. And, as tempting as it may be to overhaul everything and reach for the latest technologies, that isn’t always the right path.

“We’re confronted with shiny, bright objects every day,” Malover says. “There are solutions for every problem, and vendors and advertisers make those things sound simple. But we all know that there are complex integrations necessary to achieve the value of those solutions—the same complex integrations and operational diligence necessary to achieve the value out of what you already have.”

Building Flexibility for the Future

The point of a technology roadmap isn’t just to address what’s going on today or even next quarter but to future-proof the company for the long haul.

“The velocity of technology today is just immense,” Mitchelhill says. “And companies that we consider mainstream at the moment could be forgotten within 18 to 24 months. So they have to change the velocity of the decision-making process in a revolutionary way.”

One common roadblock to navigating the new has been a heavy reliance on IT team members or internal experts who have grown up with the company. But they can be so focused on the day-to-day that there is no time and little expertise to develop a technology strategy or even research emerging technologies to meet future needs.

Outside Expertise Is Critical to Success

Even though many companies already have a CIO in place, that person is often too busy putting out fires elsewhere in the company to focus on actual strategy. That’s where an interim CIO can be instrumental.

That was the case for one multi-billion dollar consumer products company that wanted to stay competitive in the market. After multiple acquisitions and outsourcing IT, the company had become siloed and disjointed.

The goal was to integrate and create a global IT roadmap that would take charge of application and infrastructure management, security, enterprise architecture, staffing, and performance management. It was a massive undertaking. The key to success was bringing in an interim CIO with extensive experience in building out an IT systems roadmap who could guide the company’s internal teams through this major transition.

“Having sat in the CIO and CTO seats, one of the things that I’ve found is you don’t know what you don’t know,” Malover says. “And so bringing in outside advisory services, whether that’s to supplement the CIO or to advise the CEO or CIO—that outside viewpoint helps a lot. In this chaotic environment, you need to be really agile with the talent.”

Interims Are Not a Threat

That said, owners, CEOs, and boards of directors need to keep in mind that bringing in an interim CIO to manage employees, oversee technology investments, and implement changes can send the wrong message if intentions are not communicated clearly.

“To create the environment where people within the company are accepting of this resource, you have to have to make it clear that, ‘Hey, we’re not here to take your job. We’re here to make you successful,’” Maldover says.

Do you need help developing a technology roadmap for your company? Call us at +1 (847) 849-2800 for a confidential discussion of how an Interim or Fractional CIO with years of experience can lead your organization into the future. Learn more about InterimExecs RED Team at www.interimexecs.com/red-team

More Resources:
*Why All Executives, not Just the CTO, Need to Understand Technology
*What is the Role of an Interim CIO? 5 Common Use Cases