A key outcome of a strategic IT/Operations assessment is the program roadmap. A roadmap is a high-level, easy-to-understand view and timeline of the key components of a program. In essence, it describes the path to get from the ‘current state’ to the intended ‘target state’. The roadmap is an important deliverable that should be socialized with stakeholders to provide a snapshot of the program’s objectives, milestones, dependencies, and deliverables. Once key stakeholders are all aligned – the roadmap is finalized and considered the ‘north star’ for guiding the program’s effort.
One challenge we encounter is that roadmaps are typically expressed in months over the span of years, as it takes significant time to plan and execute a carefully sequenced set of strategic initiatives. Given the roadmap’s longer duration, business priorities often evolve and conflict with its originally stated objectives. Even the best laid plans need to be reassessed and one of the overlooked aspects of an effective roadmap is how critical it is to revisit the plan at key junctures to ensure a constant alignment with organizational and business objectives.
What types of events might necessitate a change in direction for the program roadmap? Common themes I’ve witnessed include:
Leadership Change – priorities of a new Chief Investments Officer or Chief Operating Officer may differ from their predecessors, therefore requiring a review of stated roadmap objectives.
Business Strategy Change – decisions to invest (or stop investing) in new asset classes and products could necessitate stopping specific projects and commencing other initiatives.
Budget Change – funding for strategic initiatives oftentimes depends on projected business revenues or profitability, leading to program budget adjustments if targets significantly vary from initial projections.
Technology Change – announcements of new vendor products or company decisions to acquire (or decommission) specific technologies/tools could impact the roadmap.
M&A – mergers, acquisitions or divestitures will place new demands on the organization and oftentimes lead to revisiting objectives and timelines.
Cost/Benefit Change – at times, project execution may reveal higher than expected costs and/or reduced benefits – which could lead to halting a specific initiative.
A review of the roadmap should occur once specific facts are known around any of the above incidents. Typically, a transformation office or strategic change group is responsible for maintaining the roadmap. The key activities for (re)assessing and updating the existing roadmap would encompass the following:
Confirm all related facts and decisions with the relevant owner(s) of the triggered event. So, for example, if there are planned budget cuts for the upcoming year, the change group would meet with the CFO or controller to understand the reduction in funding, timing, and projected outlook.
Change group then undertakes an impact assessment of current roadmap (working in conjunction with program/workstream leaders), given the facts learned in the prior step. A series of options are then drafted with pros/cons. For example, unexpected merger activity could lead to halting specific project(s) and/or extending other project timelines with planned scope/resource increases.
Meet with Program Steering group to discuss impacts and present options for revising the roadmap. The intended outcome is to agree on the preferred option and document decisions.
Change group updates the roadmap, and then communicates with impacted stakeholders to convey impacts and decisions.
Program roadmaps are living, breathing documents and should be viewed as such. At times, organizations may be resistant to changing the roadmap for reasons such as “we spent months analyzing, creating and aligning key stakeholders so let’s not open Pandora's box again.” Or “it will take much effort to turn the ship and change course, so let’s just continue down our agreed path.” It takes courage to re-open and challenge the program roadmap, but the risk of not doing so can lead to a misalignment of your business priorities and project deliverables. A bad outcome would be to continue focusing time and resources on outdated, unrealistic, or lower priority efforts.