Guest Commentary

Road-Mapping: An Essential EA Skill

by Jeff Scott, Forrester Research

Forrester receives a large number of road-mapping questions from clients. They not only ask about the road-mapping essentials (e.g., how do you make roadmaps valuable and relevant?), but also look for guidance in building and managing roadmaps and where Forrester stands on the issue. Forrester's take is that roadmaps illuminate the path to the future and that road-mapping is an essential skill every enterprise architecture should have.

To tackle the inevitable first question, "What are the road-mapping essentials?" it's good to first look at where roadmaps fit into the planning hierarchy:

  • Vision — the future state of the organization. Visions can be "in context" or "ideal."
  • Goal — qualitative results that define attributes that flesh out the vision
  • Strategies — long-term courses of action that drive activities toward a goal
  • Objectives — quantitative, measurable results that define strategy milestones
  • Initiatives/programs — broad actions that accomplish strategy objectives
  • Roadmaps — time-sequenced initiatives within a strategy
  • Projects — activities that organize initiatives to attain objectives

In this position, roadmaps illuminate strategy details. After initiatives are planned and objectives and projects discussed, it is the roadmap that pulls everything together. Roadmaps have multiple purposes:

  • To show strategy over time for:
    • Technology portfolio changes
    • Application portfolio changes
    • Architecture development
    • Business initiatives
    • Organizational initiatives
  • To show the sequence and interrelationships of IT initiatives
  • To show system or initiative dependencies
  • To show relationships among strategy perspectives — business impact, IT plans, IT investments

The primary role of roadmaps is to quickly communicate a large amount of information quickly and efficiently. They are communication vehicles that provide insight and perspective to guide decision making. Roadmaps can indicate velocity of change, decision points, event sequencing, dependencies and future risks. It is important to note that roadmaps are not strategies or project plans; but instead a condensed summary of strategies and the projects that support them. Roadmaps work off of a defined goal and sequence out the dependent events necessary to reach that goal.

It makes sense then that developing the roadmap starts with identifying strategic interests. Organizations must ask, "Where are we going and how are we going to get there?" After these questions are answered, roadmaps can be integrated into the overall strategic agenda. Next steps are to identify your audiences, develop a context document that provides the strategic framework for the roadmap, select a roadmap template, and publish the information in multiple formats to connect with all stakeholders. Keep roadmaps visible, make them relevant and address users' concerns. For example, schedule a once-a-year briefing titled "The State Of Technology", publish quarterly progress reports, and include roadmaps as part of application project deliverables.

Enterprise architects play a role in developing the strategic landscape of a company and road-mapping is an essential part of strategy building. It helps to summarize more-complex strategy documents into digestible, big picture diagrams that can be used for multiple purposes. It's important to pick a format that fits your purpose and resonates with their intended consumer. Remember, road-mapping should tell a story.

Here are seven guidelines to help get you started:

  1. Attach roadmaps to goals and strategies.
  2. Build consumer-centric roadmaps that resonate with the roadmap consumer.
  3. Keep roadmaps simple — less information, more insight.
  4. Build multiple views for different audiences
  5. Create simple views for communication
  6. Create more-complex views for planning
  7. Refresh and publish roadmaps regularly

Jeff Scott is a Senior Analyst at Forester Research where he serves Enterprise Architecture professionals. He is a leading expert in enterprise architecture program development, business architecture, delivering EA value, and IT innovation. For more information about Forrester, please visit Forrester.com.


This was first published in October 2009

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