Innovation roadmaps – the simple questions that they need to answer

OK, developing roadmaps takes various forms these days. Some invest in software tools of various complexity (and cost), others use post-it notes. Some create highly secret descriptions of future direction, while others post their roadmaps on the wall for all to see. Another group think it s all about the technology content and for others it is about marketing strategy. I could go on…

A roadmap should integrate multiple perspectives and help align decisions across the business. In a sense, it is a catalyst for creating a future vision that can drive improved performance – whether it is drawn together is a sophisticated software package or drawn on the back of a beer mat (OK, that’s probably a slight exaggeration)…

The roadmap, in whatever form it takes should draw together the answers to the following questions:

  • What do we know about customer needs?
  • Where are we going as a business?
  • Who needs to get behind this (and what do we need for them)?
  • What are we going to do about all this?

I recognize that I risk being accused of oversimplifying things, and yes, there is a lot of operational detail involved in answering these questions, or at least, in ensuring that your roadmapping process answers these questions.

Elsewhere, I have gone into a little more detail ( but this is the essence of success. If you are missing any of the above, you’re likely to have problems with your roadmap.

So what should you do?

Recognize where you have gaps 

This obviously helps, and remember that wherever you sit in the organization, your perception of gaps won’t always be the same as other stakeholders in the roadmap – so ask around and find out.

Tweak your roadmap

Once you understand where your gaps exist, you can go about fixing them. For some, that probably means rebuilding your entire roadmapping process (unfortunately), yet for others, minor tweaks can result in a huge shift in the impact your roadmap can have – leading to greatly enhanced organizational ‘traction’ and the development of an enhanced sense of purpose and decision making.

Next up – Innovation Roadmaps – creating a dialogue for future growth in shareholder value…