Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Key Qualities of Effective Enterprise Roadmaps

One of the most important and challenging tasks that IT architects are often asked to participate in or even lead is the development of enterprise roadmaps. Roadmaps differ from schedules or integrated master schedules in that they are meant to represent the realization of capability goals rather than just merely tracking project tasks, milestones or intended delivery dates. Often times Enterprise Roadmaps do however provide the starting point or reference framework for all schedules related to the enterprise goals highlighted.

There is no standard format for a Roadmap because it is more than anything a Strategy, or a starting point for everything else that's to follow. More than that, Roadmaps are quite often used as "What If" tools as well - providing multiple potential paths to achieve organizational goals. There are quite a few software tools that provide various types of Road-mapping features. The types of tools most likely to have these features are Enterprise Architecture suites, but it is important to keep in mind that Roadmaps can be built from scratch if necessary.  An important question you might be asking yourself is why are Architects asked to contribute or lead this type of strategic activity; here's the answer:

1. Because Architects are tasked to manage the solution from a holistic perspective and thus must be involved to some extent in tempering the expectations of the organization in relation to what is or isn't technically feasible. It's generally customary to allow the person who must execute a plan to be involved in developing it.

2. Because most Architects are trained to be able to take complex situations and provide visual reference artifacts that help illustrate both the problem and the solution in an effective manner. Sometimes this is done using standard modeling notation, like UML, other times it's dictated by the feature sets of the software used to create Roadmaps. Sometimes though, it is completely unique - coming from the mind of the Architect.  The common denominator is the ability to take highly technical information and make it relevant and understandable to just about anyone without over-simplifying it to the point where its meaningless. This, as one might imagine, is a bit tricky.

3. Because Architects are trained to look for dependencies, constraints and risks at both a holistic and a detailed level. If this examination occurs up front during the Road-mapping process, the initiative has a much higher likelihood of success.

Once embarked on Road-mapping exercise, the most important qualities of a successful roadmap to strive for include:

1. The ability to illustrate capabilities in context (both with one another as well as existing constraints and future expectations of the organization in question).

2. The ability to illustrate sequential implementation while highlighting inter-dependencies. This of course doesn't have to be as detailed as an Integrated Master Schedule but it does need to be able to illustrate the highlights - those areas which will have the most impact or the greatest risk.

3. The ability to illustrate the core business challenges or problem sets being tackled.

4. The ability to properly define and prioritize chunks of capability.

5. The ability to visualize the roadmap in such a way to emphasize the linkage between core goals and outcomes.

6. The ability to serve as a communication tool or facilitation mechanism. (as the roadmap is often used to generate internal support or pursue funding)

7. A sense of realism and an understanding of the business impacts of what's being recommended. Architects are often the go-to resource when developing IT cost estimates and business case justifications because of this ability.

Building a Roadmap can be a daunting task, but putting the right people in charge is a good way to start.

Copyright 2014,  Stephen Lahanas



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