Monday, July 15, 2013

A 6 Year Technology Roadmap. Are you crazy?

As I approach 9 months at my new job, I am getting closer to completing a 6 year Tech Roadmap.

I have told a few of my IT colleagues and many of them say the same thing: Are you crazy? How can you plan 6 years into the future. Tech changes way to fast. Or I get the question about how do I have time to do that? Well. I make time, go back and see my post about urgency versus priority.

What is a Tech Roadmap? I don't even know if it is a real term. But here is what I mean. It is a summary of the overall direction and identifies what we will focus on.

I am not planning every IT project and every step for the next 6 years. I am just setting a direction for our course. If you only do planning once a year, you will end up making progress. But if you put together enough straight lines with small turns, you can still end up going in circles.

Things will change. I don't expect everything in my Tech Roadmap to go perfectly according to plan. Staff will leave, budgets will change, priorities will shift, etc., but you still need to know your long term direction.

Think of it like your career:

  • You go to school, to get the right degree in anticipation of getting the "right" job. You talk to counselors and get expert advice. 
  • You read up on the job market. So you make plans and set a direction. 
  • You have a life plan! 
  • Then college life happens as you try to live out this plan. You start to have life experiences, things happen. 
  • But hey, you stick with that degree, cause it's still what you want.  
  • Then you get the first job, which is where plans usually change. 
  • Suddenly it isn't what you expected or you stop planning because you are too busy working
This is where I hope our Roadmap helps. The Roadmap will provide long term direction, while allowing for a typical annual Strategic Technology Plan. How do you know if your one year plan is the right one without seeing how it fits over the next few years? How do you know your large projects are in the right order? How do make the big decisions in technology?

Some examples of what is in my Tech Roadmap. 
  • Move from a heavy internal network to hosted solutions where appropriate
  • Move from data repositories to workflow management tools
  • Move from scattered internal communication to centralized, easy to access intranet
  • Move from a stable-secure network to a tested, documented, monitored network
  • Move from limited tech policies to governance in data, process and tech planning
The tech team brainstormed these types of directions for all of the different areas of Tech we will focus on. Then we thought through some of the initial projects for the first 2-3 years. We also examined where we need to shift culture, influence staff, build competencies, etc.

Then we shared this with our CFO as an early draft, not a completed, format, finalized document. It was meant to spur conversation, which it did amazingly well. We had deep conversation and thought through impact. 

Why 6 years? Well it started as a 5 year plan, but one of our amazing Technology Advisory Board Members suggest we match our Roadmap to our Tech Replacement Cycle which is planned at 6 years for some of our network equipment.

Anyway, if you ever want to debate the value of my 6 year roadmap, I am open to it.


Peter Campbell said...

I think it's admirable, and I'm kind of jealous, because the five year plan I pitched in May is really a four year plan with kinda "more of the same" items in year five. I like your six broad goals as well. As I'm sure you've heard me say about IT planning, if you don't pick a direction to go in you won't get anywhere, or, more to the point, you'll get somewhere, but it might not be where you want to be. So don't count me as one of your colleagues that considers this crazy. What would be crazy is scheduling, say, your Google Apps migration to occur in July of 2017 and holding to that date regardless of anything that happens in the interim. A tech plan is always a draft, subject to frequent revisions.

Steve Heye said...

A great comment as always, Peter. I have learned quickly to never state dates as absolutes.

My Tech Roadmap will never be a final draft, always a draft in progress, with a detail addendum each year. But hope to carry it through the full 6 years to be able to report on outcomes.

Side note, we are headed to Office365 this year, not Google Apps.

Peter Campbell said...

Yes, I saw a comment or tweet by you about 365 being a safer bet than Apps. My research, to date, shows the opposite. Google Apps is more mature, particularly around the management tools and integration, and the uptime record puts 365 to shame. In 365's defense, it's newer, and will catch up on tools and stability, and the inclusion of Sharepoint gives it something Apps sorely lacks -- a strong document management system. We haven't decided which way we plan to go, but since we're considering a serious investment in Salesforce, which will include a document management component, Apps is in the running. My take is that the Apps horror stories come primarily from companies that tried to keep Outlook as the mail client; the success stories are the orgs (some very large I know of) that banned Outlook and invested heavily in training. And I've seen some very creative things, like an international org that registered Citrix, their Intranet and other legacy apps as private apps in the Google marketplace and then added them to the Apps menu for their users, very slick.