IT Roadmap

Definition of IT Roadmap[1]

IT Roadmap (also known as Technology Roadmap) is a visual representation of the timeline to deliver a solution. An IT roadmap highlights the following key elements:

  • Initiatives or projects
  • Deliverables
  • Roles and responsibilities
  • Cost
  • Value

IT Roadmap Illustration

What Technology Roadmap looks like[2]
“Technology roadmap” is an umbrella term that encompasses several different roadmap sub-types and iterations. A few examples include:

  • Development roadmap
  • Application roadmap
  • Internal IT systems roadmap

One of the broadest—and most universal—applications of this type of roadmap, however, is defining and documenting the administration of an organization’s internal IT system. An internal IT systems roadmap helps teams implement a clear plan of action and make smarter decisions about technology. Below are two illustrative examples of what an IT Systems Roadmap should look like.

Swimlane View
IT Roadmap Swimlane View
Figure 1. source: Roadmunk

The swimlane view (Figure 1.) of the technology roadmap is particularly helpful for getting a high-level understanding of what’s going on in IT for each department. Marketing will be able to understand, at a glance, the status of the latest tech to be added or upgraded.

Timeline View
IT Roadmap Timeline view
Figure 2. source: Roadmunk

For teams that want to get really granular with the administration of their IT system, the timeline view (Figure 2.) is recommended. The timeline view makes it easy to visualize the timing and resourcing for the technology resources in the pipeline.

The Purpose of IT Roadmap

Why do companies need a technology roadmap?[3]
Companies utilize various technologies to support their employees. The collection of these systems and technologies are often complex and resource-intensive. Therefore, the overall infrastructure must be planned and implemented in an organized manner.

Ultimately, the purpose of a technology roadmap is to align key stakeholders, such as Engineering, IT, and other business units, by creating a plan of action to implement new technology solutions or maintain existing ones. This plan helps teams better grasp the requirements needed to reach the end goal and provides a clear path for the desired use case for the organization.

In IT teams, usually, product managers are responsible for maintaining a technology roadmap. However, the input from each of the key stakeholders is important too. This input allows the company to understand objectives and needs from each side. Besides the product manager, technology roadmap stakeholders may include developers, a project manager, General Managers, finance, sales & marketing depts, legal, etc. Creating a technology roadmap is only one the part of the process. The crucial point is to share the roadmap with key stakeholders to make them informed on the overall plan.[4]

Components of IT Roadmap

The eight key components of a technology roadmap include:[5]

  • Goals: Goals are both short-term and long-term achievements that the organization is hoping to achieve through the technology solution. Specifically, the goals will focus on the business capabilities that are enabled by the technology system, as well as what will be required to maintain the systems going forward.
  • New system capabilities: These are what will be provided through the enhanced technology systems. For example, adding customer asset tracking to a CRM system will offer greater insight to several business units.
  • Release plans: Release plans focus on enhancing the systems and the specific requirements to support the new capabilities that are needed by the business. Releases are generally very predictable and are scheduled months in advance. They are also communicated broadly throughout the organization.
  • Milestones: These are key accomplishments achieved during the technology development process. Tracking milestones allows the stakeholders using the systems to understand the progress towards the long-term goal, at points throughout the project. Milestones are typically tagged to specific dates and treated as performance targets to ensure the organization is on track.
  • Resources: Resources detail the manpower needed to implement and most importantly, maintain the systems once they are in place. IT groups must plan to simultaneously roll out new functionality as well as update legacy systems as needed. This creates cross-functional dependencies between multiple groups including the agile development teams needed to build the new functionality.
  • Training: This will spell out the type of guidance necessary for the internal team to support the system, for the actual users of the system, or both. Training can apply to a new system that is being implemented for the first time, or enhancements to a current system already in widespread use.
  • Risk factors: Risk factors represent internal and external barriers which may prevent the organization from achieving the goals and milestones noted in the technology plan. These may include limitations of the technology itself, as well as broader market conditions that present a difficulty for the organization.
  • Status reports: Status reports are an important and necessary part of the technology roadmap to keep everyone informed. Delayed implementation of one key system will affect the plans for business units that were depending on it. For example, a business wanting to introduce a new partner discount plan for their channel cannot proceed until systems are enhanced to handle this new discounting framework.

Types of IT Roadmap

IT Roadmaps that Work[6]
An IT roadmap is a strategic tool that can help graphically illustrate both long-term and short-term plans. In short, it says where you are and where you plan on going within the next few years. There are several different types of roadmaps depending on what area you want to chart a course for.

  • Service Roadmap: The service roadmap is focused on the IT Services that you provide the organization. These can be especially useful when explaining what services you plan on retiring or spinning up over the next few years. The service roadmap contains a list of all your services. It allows you show at a glance what services you are spinning up, which ones you are maintaining, and which services are in preparation for retirement. You can also show what services will replace any services that may be scheduled for retirement.
  • Infrastructure Hardware Roadmap: An infrastructure hardware roadmap is focused on the infrastructure equipment in service. This type of roadmap is my favorite way to show senior IT leadership when specific models of gear will be retired. The infrastructure hardware roadmap is best used for areas where you have a large amount of equipment. This one also works great with any spreadsheet application.
  • Strategy Roadmap: A strategy or sometimes called a strategic intent roadmap lays out the work ahead based on the strategic goals of the organization. This type of roadmap provides an excellent way to visualize your strategic plan. In most roadmaps of this style, the organizational goals are on the left side of the roadmap with a Gannt style timeline that describes the implementation timeline. If there are several supporting projects that role up into a larger strategic goal, you can show those individually as well.
  • Technology Roadmap: The technology roadmap typically displays various projects that support technology stacks within your organization. This type of roadmap is typically very high level and is great for demonstrating how your products align with your overall technology portfolio. This is similar to the strategic roadmap. However, rather than being focused on the strategic goals of the organization, it more closely resembles your organizational structure. If you want to see what your network team, Applications, service delivery and other groups have planned at a glance, then the technology roadmap is what you are looking for.

IT Roadmap Development Process

Activities and Phases of the IT Roadmap Development Process[7]
A Technology Roadmap development process should ensure that a roadmap identifies mutual goals and determines specific and achievable technology tasks and actions towards realizing a common vision. On average, it takes six to 14 months to develop a roadmap. The process includes two types of activities (Expert Judgment/Consensus and Data and Analysis) and four phases (Planning and Preparation, Visioning, Roadmap Development and Roadmap Implementation and Revision). After a roadmap is completed, implementation and updating ensure the complete realization of the vision and goals.

Roadmap Development Process focused on Energy Technologies
IT Roadmap Development Process
Figure 3. source: ACQNotes

An effective Technology Road mapping process maximizes participants’ engagement in creating the plan, thereby building consensus and increasing the likelihood that those involved will implement the roadmap priorities. A roadmap also evolves in the sense that the process does not stop when the document is published. Rather, the roadmap evolves as progress is made, external factors change and more information becomes available. The frequency with which a roadmap is updated depends largely on the time frame under consideration. Typically, national-level roadmaps are updated periodically (e.g., every two to five years). Technology-specific roadmaps are sometimes updated more frequently to reflect progress, changes in available resources or scheduling considerations.

IT Roadmap Development Phases

Phases in the IT Roadmap Development Process[8]
The technology roadmapping process may be conducted in three phases (see figure 4): preliminary activities, the development of the roadmap, and the follow-up activities phase. Because the process is too big for one model, the phases are modeled separately. In the models no different roles are made; this is because everything is done by the participants as a group.

The Three Phases of IT Roadmap Development Process
The Three Phases of IT Roadmap Development Process
Figure 4. source: Wikipedia

Phase 1: Preliminary Phase: In this phase the key decision makers must identify that they have a problem and that technology roadmapping can help them in solving the problem. The first phase, the preliminary phase (see figure 5), consists of 3 steps:

  • Satisfy Essential Conditions: In this step it must become clear what the conditions are (they must be identified) and if they are not met, who takes actions to meet them. These conditions include, for example:
    • A need for the technology roadmap
    • Input and participation from different parts of the organization (e.g., marketing, R&D, the strategic business units) with different planning horizons and perspectives.

All conditions should be satisfied (or an agreed-on party takes necessary actions) to continue to the next step. The participants can have zero or more conditions of their own. It applies to all conditions that have the attribute to be met or not.

  • Provide Leadership/Sponsorship: Committed leadership is needed because of the time and effort involved in creating a technology roadmap. Additionally the leadership should come from one of the participants, one of them provides leadership and sponsorship. This means that the line organization must drive the process and use the roadmap to make resource allocation decisions.
  • Define the Scope and Boundaries: In this step the context for the roadmap is specified. In the company a vision should exist and it must be clear that the roadmap can support that vision. If the vision does not exist one should be developed and clearly stated. When that is done the boundaries and the scope of the roadmap should be specified. Furthermore, the planning horizon and the level of details should be set. The scope can be further divided into the technology scope and the participation scope.

The Process Data Model of the Preliminary Phase of IT Roadmap Development
IT Roadmap Development Preliminary Phase
Figure 5. source: Wikipedia

Phase 2: Development Phase: The second phase, the development of the technology roadmap phase (see figure 6.), consists of 7 steps

  • Identify the product focus of the roadmap: In this step the common product needs are identified and are agreed on by all the participants. This is important to get the acceptance of all groups for the process. In case of uncertainty of the product needs scenario-based planning can be used to determine the common product needs. In figure 6, the participants and possibly the scenario-based planning provide the common product needs.
  • Identify the critical system requirements and their targets: Once it is decided what must be roadmapped, the critical system requirements can be identified; they provide the overall framework for the technology roadmap. The requirements can have targets (as an attribute in figure 6) like reliability and costs.
  • Specify the major technology area: These are the areas that help achieve critical system requirements. For each technology area several technologies can be found. Example technology areas are: market assessment, crosscutting technology, component development, and system development.
  • Specify the technology drivers and their targets: In this step the critical system requirements from the second step are transformed into technology drivers (with targets) for the specific technology area. These drivers are the critical variables that select the technology alternatives. Drivers depend on the technology areas but they relate to how the technology addresses the critical system requirements.
  • Identify technology alternatives and their timelines: At this point the technology drivers and their targets are specified and the technology alternatives that can satisfy those targets should be specified. For each of the alternatives a timeline should be estimated for how it will mature with respect to the technology driver targets. The time factor can be adapted suitable for the particular situation. The time horizons for e-commerce and software related sectors are usually short. Other distinctions can be made on scale and intervals.
  • Recommend the technology alternatives that should be pursued: Because the alternatives may differ in costs, timeline, etc., a selection must be made of the alternatives. These are the alternatives to pursue in figure 6. In this step a lot of trade-offs must be made between different alternatives for different targets: for example, performance over costs and even target over target.
  • Create the report: At this point the technology roadmap is finished. In figure 6, it can be seen that the technology roadmap report consists of 5 parts:
    • the identification and description of each technology area,
    • critical factors in the roadmap,
    • unaddressed areas,
    • implementation recommendations, and
    • technical recommendations.

The report can also include additional information.

The Process Data Model of the Development Phase of IT Roadmap Development
Development Phase of IT Roadmap Development
Figure 6. source: Wikipedia

Phase 3: Follow-up Activity Phase: This is the moment when the roadmap must be critiqued, validated and hopefully accepted by the group involved in any implementation. This requires a plan developed using the technology roadmap. Next, there must be a periodical review and update point, because needs from the participants and the technologies evolve.

Benefits of an IT Roadmap

What you gain from having an IT Roadmap [9]
Many IT professionals feel that resources are wasted because they are stuck in a reactive pattern of responding to business user needs. Instead of being able to focus on the future, IT personnel are busy dealing with improvements and risk mitigation on an as-needed basis.

A roadmap can be a way to shift towards a more proactive business model. Leadership can gain the ability to forecast business needs and implement proactive maintenance and improvements before technology becomes a problem.

Strategic roadmaps are a powerful tool for facilitating communications between IT and business leadership. With a well-documented, robust IT roadmap, professionals stand to gain the ability to:

  • justify needed increases in budget or talent
  • engage in productive conversations about prioritization
  • develop strong partnerships with non-IT leadership

IT leadership can gain the ability to operate strategically and gain critical buy-in from executives on projects that necessitate new talent or other resources. An optimally-used IT roadmap can shift an IT department from a model of crisis response to structured change management.

Challenges of an IT Roadmap

Potential Challenges of an IT Roadmap[10]
Despite the value that IT roadmaps can provide, there are some potential challenges. Below is a list of common problems teams face when creating a roadmap so that you can be aware of the drawbacks before you get started.

  • Alienating stakeholders: “A particular challenge I come across when organizations move forward with creating a technology roadmap is that stakeholders haven’t been engaged,” states Michelle Nessman, Founder and President of Elite Business Systems. Without early buy-in, you may find yourself hunting for and chasing after stakeholders in order to get necessary approvals.
  • Setting aside priorities: Nessman also noted that when priorities are ignored or go without monitoring, budgets become impacted—often with overruns. “Many companies have started shifting to having a technology committee,” says Nessman. This eliminates the ‘IT only’ perspective and prevents decisions being made to favor the concerns of IT teams.
  • Inaccurate or fragmented information: If the system data is not accurate or complete, the quality of your roadmap declines. You can avoid credibility issues by diligently reviewing your system data before you begin roadmapping. If your organization has subject matter experts, tap into their expertise. If not, seek out industry analysts, suppliers, or the help of consultants. Keep in mind technology roadmaps are packed with detail. Additionally, the mission statement, business strategy, technologies, priorities, activities, and timelines should all link.

Understanding these challenges will help you overcome them when creating your own IT roadmap - rather than backtracking when the process becomes unmanageable.

See Also

Business IT Alignment
IT Strategy
Business Strategy
Corporate Strategy
Project Portfolio Management
Kano Model


  1. Definition: What is IT Roadmap (Technology Roadmap)?
  2. What Technology Roadmap looks like Roadmunk
  3. Why do companies need a technology roadmap?
  4. Who is responsible for roadmapping process? Hygger
  5. What are the key components of a technology roadmap (IT Roadmap)? Huffington Poat
  6. What are the different types of IT Roadmaps? BMC
  7. Activities and Phases of the IT Roadmap Development Process ACQNotes
  8. The Phases in the IT Roadmap Development Process Wikipedia
  9. Benefits of having an IT Roadmap Calero
  10. Potential Challenges of an IT Roadmap Smartsheet

Further Reading