Why build a strategic roadmap?

Strategic roadmaps can, among other uses, be a great tool to facilitate communication and alignment around your strategic plan.

By offering a comprehensive view understandable by everyone, strategic roadmaps communicate what your organization is going to do, and why it’s going to do it in a way that sparks the sort of conversation that companies need to better anticipate the future.

But as with many experiences in life, the value of strategic roadmaps resides as much in the process as the end result. In this 10 minute presentation, Keith Duncan, Customer Success Management Director for NPD at Planisware, demonstrates why that is.

(lightly redacted for clarity)

I meet with a company it typically follows a common format. The first thing I'll do is I'll sit down, I'll talk to an engineering team or I'll talk to their PMO and they'll start walking me through what they normally do

Usually start up with something like "This is how we do our stage gate process, this is how we do gate meetings, these are some of our standards are on how we do scheduling. From there a lot of times we'll get into the discussions of what do they do with Kanban and agile. We'll expand on that, we'll start talking about financial management cost management within the program is forecasting we revenues from their new products all of this is going really well about half the time we get into discussions about resource management and how they're looking at where people are going to be working. So far so good.

Then at some point we started talking about portfolio management. I'll say "Well what do you guys do around that" and they'll bring up a report like this and they'll say "oh we've got things like this and it shows us all the projects were working on shows us some of the primary KPI is what the project health looks like we've got a really good idea of what we're working on". Cool "We have four cats on our financials we can break down our financials by business you're in a product line we can look at what a revenue looks like over the years not only just revenue but also what our incremental revenue and margin contribution is" Cool "We can analyze our resource bottlenecks we can identify where we're going to have problems don't have enough resource in order to get our projects done and we can take action as well accordingly." I say cool but that's not portfolio management that's pipeline reporting. That is not telling me how you're going to achieve your objectives, that's just telling me what you're doing right now and the projects you're currently funding.

The best analogy I have is those reports are like a map like this. "You are here". It's important information like to know that I'm in Pittsburgh. It's cool to know that there's point state park right across the street I can go to get catch some fresh air. I was really intrigued by the idea that a few miles north of here there's something called brandy land. I don't know what it is but it sounds pretty fun. Next that's the mattress factory Museum and the fact that there is even a museum for mattresses or is interesting. It's cool I need to know this but if I have to be in Philadelphia in the morning for a meeting, it doesn't do me much good doesn't tell me how I'm going to get to where I want to go. Doesn't even tell me which of the 13 bridges that are on this map I should take to even start my trip and for a guy from Colorado I'm amazed that there are 13 bridges on one map I'm not sure we have 13 bridges in the state of Colorado, but for me to get to Philadelphia I need a different view. I need a road map. It's pictorial, it's clear, it tells me how I can get from here to Philadelphia tells me I can take a direct route there's some construction along around I'm okay with that it's still the fastest way to get there. On the other hand if I feel like crab cakes on the way I can do a little detour go down to Baltimore grab some dinner and then go to Philadelphia, it all works. And if I don't like to drive I can fly I have something here that I can clearly communicate to everybody how I'm going to get from where I am right now to where I want to go. That's the power of a road map before I go any further there are lots of really good reasons why you should have road maps as part of your PPM tool kit I've got 12 minutes to talk the only thing I can do is cover one topic and that is how road maps can facilitate communication and getting alignment around your plan.

So how do we get there five simple steps you guys are all doing them right

  • Find out why you need to do something because doing nothing is always an option maybe not the best one but it's always out there
  • Set a goal
  • Build a coalition: this morning's speaker talk about a Coalition of the Willing. I made the comment to somebody I'm so tired of talking about cross-functional teams that I started talking about coalition's instead. Some reason we're still not fully doing it but we all know what we should be
  • Get a realistic view of what needs to be done
  • And then prepare to act and react as you learn more

So how do we do it

Well we all kind of start off the same way right we have a meeting internally we start talking about our core competencies, we start talking about what our assets are we talk about what our strategic direction is, we pile on top of that and consumer insights or customer requirements from there we start looking at what we're doing in research and development, what new technologies are coming out that we can leverage, we talk to our partners what do they need from us what can they give us what's happening in legal and regulatory affairs that are going to affect our product line, what's happening in our distribution channels what's happening in manufacturing we take all that together we start formulating a plan and we finally figure out where that blue ocean. Is that we're all going to sail to where profits are high and competition is low. We've made it to the promised land and we take all that information and we put it in this we all have them nobody understands them we're all afraid to change it you change one seller there's so many macros and links in that in there that it looks like a pile of dominoes falling down across a desk but that's what we have let's talk about doing it a different way.

Why do anything? Map your value streams, map your strategic arenas your customer your target customers. Understand what's going on there over the next several years, get a few and in this view here, I know the font is small and I apologize for that, I can tell that it's a middle value stream that offers me the most opportunity I can see that the market is growing I can see that I don't have a lot competitors moving in and I can see that can actually make money in it so that's what I'm gonna focus my effort. Once we've done the analysis we've decided that's the stream we want to be on, let me get with my product teams we ask them how can you help how can you help us be successful in this arena?

They start drawing pictures like this it's each business unit the security appliances group the infrastructure Management Group the router group they're all saying these are the things that we can do over time to help you achieve that goal. Now that I have these two pictures, now I can bring my teams together, we can sit around the campfire we can look at these pictures we can discuss what it is that we're going to do, why we're gonna do it and because people can actually comprehend what I'm showing them they can add to it. They can say hey did you think about this iso regulation that's kicking in in 2022? no I didn't let's put it on the roadmap. Have you considered what the impact of 5g is going to be on our plan, no let's roll it in. By the time we get done with that campfire discussion though we have alignment we have a tool that people clearly understand what it is we're going to do why we're gonna do it and when it has to be done by after that everybody goes home and they start working on the road own roadmaps and they start coming back to me and then the top line there and the blue I can see what's HR it's a responsibility. HR comes back and says well we're gonna have to hire some different types of people we're gonna have to get some training plans in place that's going to equip to having the right people.

Platform development comes in act they start saying these are platforms we can develop manufacturing packaging come back and they say these are the things that we can do to help us respect or sustainability responsibilities to the community. Everything's laid out by the way at this point I have a strategic plan that can be understood by a CEO by a director of engineering by a director of marketing by a janitor by a data entry clerk by a project manager anybody can look at this picture and tell me what it is we're going to do anybody can look at the picture that we start with and tell me why we're going to do it. I now have a communication tool that I can use to effectively manage my strategy.

Now that I've know that much I can drill it down to the last level what are the products I'm going to create what are the milestones are going to have to respect what are the enablers I'm going to have to have in place before it can create the products and I have a clear view of what I'm going to do when something happens when I have a disruptive event I can come back to this picture and I can say okay what moves what has to change what has to be adapted and I can do it in a way that we all understand. So what's the takeaway? We can't forget the details we need them we're running a business so we do have to know how much money we're going to make we have to know how much money we're going to spend or we have to know all of that information but while you're working on the details, don't forget the big picture and that's the power of strategic roadmapping in terms of collaboration communication and getting alignment across your teams I'm out of time and I'm out of slides. Thank you.

Many companies mistake pipeline management for portfolio management. Whereas pipeline management looks at how things are today, i.e. how current projects are performing, portfolio management looks forward, at what the future environment will look like, and what its impact will be on the company.

To be effective, this image of the future needs to be as comprehensive as possible. For that, its construction needs to involve as many different people, departments and functions as possible. Because strategic roadmaps lay down information in a highly visual and understandable format, it encourages communication. It also allows a wide variety of stakeholders to get involved in the conversation and offer their perspectives.