How to create a digital roadmap (and why you need one)
Digital roadmaps are helping organisations as diverse as the National Theatre and Imperial War Museums to achieve their business goals through digital initiatives. But what exactly are they, and how can they deliver business value?
Defining the digital roadmap
Having a comprehensive, flexible roadmap in place is key to achieving an organisation’s goals through digital initiatives. A digital roadmap is a high-level document that outlines what goal a business wants to achieve, identifying some digital initiatives that can help it get there.
It provides a blueprint for action that aligns digital initiatives with short- and longer-term business objectives. Ultimately, digital roadmap development is about enabling a business to convert the business vision into a realistic action plan that negotiates risk and ensures digital initiatives deliver ROI.
The roadmap should be clear, flexible, and accessible to all parts of the business, and while the document should be concise, supporting documentation can be used to provide further detail.
Forward-thinking businesses understand that they’re now in a period of ‘constant transition’ where rigid plans no longer deliver benefit in an ever-changing environment. And in many ways, a digital roadmap is like a GPS system for the company’s digital strategy. It allows a business to see where it is and where it’s heading.
As with a GPS system, a direction of travel is established, but the exact route can change along the way, because a successful roadmap will be one which is able to constantly evolve in line with continuous insight – for example, about the changing demands of the customer base.
Without a realistic plan for where it wants to go with digital and actionable insight to refine direction on a continuous basis, a business can end up making unfocused digital investments that fail to deliver a return on investment or have any measurable impact on the business goals. But it’s just as important to have a roadmap that’s actually effective.
How to achieve the right roadmap
Avoid rigid plans. The digital roadmap should be a live document that can grow with the business, providing a constant reference point to keep the digital strategy on track and aligned with the business goals, even as those goals evolve over time. The roadmap needs to be reviewed on a frequent basis and updated in line with real-time analysis, changing business requirements, and influence from external factors such as what competitors are focusing on, market forces, and disruption attempts.
Collaborate with all relevant stakeholders. Whilst they should only have one owner, digital roadmaps should be created and maintained as part of collaborative workshops that involve all relevant stakeholders. This is key to creating an integrated digital strategy focused on achieving an agreed, shared business goal, rather than delivering a series of isolated digital initiatives.
- Start with clearly-defined business objectives. A roadmap needs to be based on clearly-articulated strategic goals from the outset, and must include key performance indicators to measure progress of the digital strategy against those goals. It should build-in ambitious but achievable milestones and checkpoints for assessing progress made, demonstrating the rationale of the proposed digital strategy. A useful first step is to use SWOT analysis to identify where the gaps are in your business proposition, processes, and supporting capabilities (such as your technology stack and the people who support it), then identify which areas you want to specifically address.
Include an assessment of each digital initiative’s value against complexity, cost, and risk. This helps to assess whether a digital initiative is worth delivering, and its capacity for achieving results against the pre-defined goals.
- Consider a consultancy. External benchmarking and competitor analysis provided by a third party can help businesses consider their competitive landscape, as well as the product and technology options to support their goals and direction. This external perspective can be helpful for conducting a strategic review of how a digital strategy compares and relates to the wider market, consumer expectations, and the competition. Businesses should look for experienced consultancies equipped to help them appraise options, gain consensus amongst stakeholders, and achieve goals faster.
Inviqa-client Imperial War Museums (IWM) is a great example of how a digital roadmap can empower a business that depends on technology, but is ‘not principally geared around digital technology’.
According to Imperial War Museums' Charles Bodsworth, who is responsible for developing the organisation's digital transformation strategy, the process of customer-journey mapping and developing an accompanying roadmap is critical for ‘reminding us who we are doing this for and the benefits to our customers’.
The digital roadmap development work IWM is conducting in partnership with Inviqa is ensuring IWM can ‘forecast and anticipate investment several years ahead’. It’s also ensuring that IWM focuses on the project management and digital skills required of project delivery teams as they ‘step up to the challenge’.
We had set out a digital strategy, which lays out what we want digital technology to achieve for us, and how it should transform us as an organisation. But we needed to add expertise, perspective, and capacity to turn that strategy into a roadmap we could execute. That’s where engaging an external agency came in.
Roadmapping ≠ digital transformation
It’s important to remember that a digital roadmap in isolation is not a passport to successful digital transformation.
In reality, an organisation’s ability to drive business value from the digital roadmap is directly influenced by business context and whether an organisation has the right practices, processes, and digital culture to achieve change and drive innovation through digital initiatives.
Nonetheless, an effective roadmap provides a business with guidance and direction that’s invaluable to progressing with small digital experiments. These digital prototypes are fundamental to digital transformation since they allow you to quickly learn more about your customers, test assumptions, and build business cases for digital initiatives.