‘Technology Roadmapping’ is one of the widely used techniques in the software and hardware industry to help an organization to achieve its goals. A flexible technique that supports strategic and long-term planning, the approach ‘provides a structured (and often graphical) means for exploring and communicating the relationships between evolving and developing markets, products and technologies over time’.
Any technology company that has a clear vision and business goal will have a well-planned technology roadmap setup. This technique can help a company survive various troubled times, providing a focus for scanning the IT environment and serving as a means to track everything that is part of the company. Crucially, there is also the case of identifying potentially disruptive technologies that have the capability to offset the market into a different direction.
A technology roadmap may sound like a simple and standard technique that all companies follow, but then again there is still only one Intel, one Microsoft, one Cisco, etc. These are companies who have mastered the art of technology roadmapping and are now platform leaders that drive industry innovation. By recognizing the approach as an art form, we can begin to see the process is anything but simple, or standard.
A roadmap is generally broad and robust, covering a number of complex conceptual and human interactions, helping everyone from SMEs to enteprises. However, it generally comprises three core components:
- Technology push (a company’s products)
- Market pull (customers’ needs)
- Time chart – (comprising of number of layers that include both commercial and technology perspectives)
Platform leaders such as Cisco, Intel, Facebook et al. have used roadmapping to not only engineer first-rate technology, but also lay a foundation on which other companies can build their products or offer their services. However, these leaders cannot rest on their laurels. There are times when even they lose are vulnerable to the relentless wave of technological disruption.
Even though the Apple Mac series has a huge and loyal customer base, they cannot capture the mass market that uses Windows machines. Other prominent examples include Apple phones vs Blackberry and Nokia phones, Tesla vs. the traditional Automobile industry, Cloud Computing vs Traditional IT Infrastructure.
Any technology company is susceptible to losing ground in the fast-paced technology world. If your organization has a technology gap or shortcoming, then your competitor will quickly fill that gap. And if they don’t, a new emerging player will – just look at the startup revolution.
It is quite possible for a tech giant to fail to become a platform leader and mismanage the process of stimulating and channeling complementary innovation, depending on the changes surrounding the market and economy.
The result, according to Annabelle Gawer and Michael Cushman in their book Platform Leadership: How Intel, Microsoft, and Cisco Drive Industry Innovation, is an inability to exploit the dynamics of markets driven by the economic forces, thereby leading to its downfall or losing its status as a platform leader. They state that platform leaders (and wannabes) need to:
- Balance multiple roles
- Manage platform evolution
- Simulate external innovation
A proper and an evolving technology roadmap plays a key role in ensuring the aforementioned points. Below is how a generic schematic framework from the research paper ‘Technology Roadmapping – A Planning Framework For Evolution and Revolution’:
While the below diagram gives an idea on how so many factors influence the products:
To make it easier to understand, let’s look at the technology roadmap of ‘Internet of Things’:
The above diagram is where almost every tech-savvy person can understand how deeply we are part of this roadmap. This is not specific to any companies. This roadmap from one source has influenced variety of industries, people, market and economics alike. From the timeline, we can see the industry has achieved a lot and there is many more to come, which is quite exciting.
What does your technology roadmap look like?
 Robert Phaal, Clare J.P. Farrukh, David R. Probert, Technology Roadmapping- A planning framework for evolution and revolution’, 2014