Ross Brindle

I’ve written before about technology roadmapping, offering ten tips for successfully building your roadmap. But once you’ve built your roadmap, what’s next? How can you use your roadmap effectively?

First, let’s define two broad categories of technology roadmaps:

  • Roadmaps built for individual companies—Such roadmaps are used to guide proprietary R&D and technology that create competitive advantage and, ultimately, shareholder value.
  • Roadmaps that cross organizational boundaries—These roadmaps typically engage industry, government, and the research community to map pre-competitive R&D intended to advance entire industries or fields of study toward shared goals.

The process of implementing technology roadmaps within individual companies is as varied as companies themselves. Each organization has its own strategic goals, past and current R&D portfolio, information systems, decision-making methods, human and financial resources, and corporate culture.

When implementing a roadmap within a company, the roadmap owner must consider all of these factors and implement a change process that fits within the larger, unique corporate context. External consultants are not likely to be successful by only offering canned methods and processes. Rather, a successful roadmapping consultant will work with you to understand these company-specific details and customize the implementation and change management process accordingly.

While implementing cross-organizational roadmaps is also challenging, the nature of the challenges is different. Instead of trying to fit the roadmapping process into the norms of an existing company, usually cross-organizational roadmaps have no pre-existing structures or processes. This situation eliminates some problems but creates a void that some groups are not sure how to fill.

I have been involved in creating and launching many such roadmaps. Through this experience, I have learned that there are three models for putting cross-organizational roadmaps into action:

  • Coordinated—In the COORDINATED model, the key objective is to reach consensus and align common goals and objectives with a clear menu of technology options. Each partner can then use the roadmap to accomplish its business/mission objective with only general coordination of efforts.
  • Collaborative—In the COLLABORATIVE model, there is an alliance of related partners (often competitors) who see value in solving a business or technology problem by working together. Often a collaborative organization (which may or may not exist prior to roadmap completion) will oversee, but not directly manage, the implementation of the roadmap. The roadmap’s initiatives are typically co-funded by multiple partners who can opt into or out of individual projects and share in the results accordingly.
  • Centralized—In the CENTRALIZED model, there is typically a single organization “champion” that conceives and organizes the roadmap effort and eventually manages a set of highly focused projects designed to solve specific technical projects. This is typical of “pre-competitive” R&D conducted in the private sector, usually with co-funding from government. Often, participants in a centralized roadmap have a seat on an advisory group that helps make decisions, but they have little or no direct authority to dictate R&D investment.

How do you know which model is right for you? The easiest answer is: “Follow the money!”

Will roadmap investments be made in line with the roadmap by individual organizations without consulting or partnering with others? Then you are using the coordinated model. If R&D co-funding is occurring on a project-by-project basis, with individual collaborators able to opt into or out of projects, then you are using a collaborative model. If roadmap participants are combining funds with a third-party organization that leads the roadmap effort and makes R&D investment decisions, then you are using the centralized model.

All three models have pros and cons, and I have seen all three work and fail. The best generic advice I can give is to think about how the roadmap will be used by those who create it before developing it. By thinking about “the end game” from the beginning, you can be sure to build the roadmap and implementation structure necessary to realize value from your efforts.