In the course of my daily interactions with entrepreneurs, I can’t help but notice the effect of technology (or the lack of it) on customer experience.
One recent experience that left me pleasantly surprised was a maintenance service call for my furnace (of all things)!
I had reviewed the service options online and was calling with a question. The customer service representative immediately pulled up my furnace details, and provided my warranty information along with several options for an appointment. I received a confirmation email with the date and time of my appointment, and a subsequent reminder email as well as a call from the technician to let me know he was on his way.
Upon completion, the technician reviewed his work order checklist and the furnace details with me on his connected tablet, obtained my signature, and sent me a digital copy of the report—along with my invoice and payment confirmation.
By the end of the encounter, the company had brought together several technologies to deliver a superior customer experience.
Use a technology roadmap to launch major technology initiatives
This got me to thinking about the many companies who want to achieve automated, synchronized and efficient operations, but who hesitate to invest because they fear the cost and complexity of technology, don’t know where to start and don’t yet have firm plans in place.
Despite these challenges, companies that have invested in digital technologies are reporting increased productivity, lower costs and improved product quality. As was highlighted in BDC’s recent Industry 4.0 study, such companies are also better positioned to react more rapidly to market changes and have better growth prospects.
A technology roadmap can help you move forward with confidence and purpose while avoiding costly mistakes. It will help you align your IT projects with your strategic priorities, plan for the long term, and define your needs and priorities before making an investment.
Here are six steps you can follow to build your technology roadmap.
1. Identify your strategic objectives
What are your strategic priorities? What is the financial and operational impact you hope to generate?
Reducing effort and waste is a great initial goal, but don’t limit your thinking.
- What tools and information can help your team become more insightful, proactive and responsive?
- How can you deliver a better experience or create additional value for your customers?
- In what ways can you make it easier to do business with your company
Clearly defining your strategic objectives and how technology will help you achieve them is a critical step to a successful IT strategy.
2. Plan for the future
Investments that only address immediate needs result in fewer benefits, duplication of effort and higher costs. Customers today expect to interact with you through multiple channels—mobile apps, social media, websites—and they want an experience that is seamless and consistent.
The explosion in affordable connected devices, for example, has allowed many companies to use real-time data to build close relationships with their customers, to optimize resources and track performance. The Internet of Things (IoT) and other technology trends are becoming competitive advantages that draw in customers and create winners or losers in the marketplace.
Your business can’t afford to stay behind.
In developing your roadmap, set your sights on a longer time horizon and consider what you will need to stay competitive over the next three to five years. Technology that is flexible, scalable and expandable enough to accommodate your long-term needs will help you get the most out of your investment.
3. Define your functional needs and priorities
Without clearly defined needs and priorities, there is no way to properly assess your options and plan effectively.
When creating your roadmap, you’ll want to:
- Review your business processes and highlight inefficiencies
- Identify technology gaps or areas where your existing systems fall short
- Identify the functional capabilities needed to effectively support or improve your processes
- Prepare an itemized, prioritized checklist of what steps need to be taken
From my own experience, I have seen my clients inevitably express a desire for better reports, performance metrics and predictive analytics to help them plan, execute and deliver to expectations. But it’s important that you determine what underlying data is needed to achieve such visibility as well as how, when, where and by whom will it be collected.
4. Measure the cost
Major technology initiatives can be expensive and capital intensive. As an indication, BDC’s Industry 4.0 report surveyed Canadian manufacturers and found that they had invested an average of $261,000 in digital technology projects over the last 2 years.
The investment required can vary significantly depending on the size of your company, your industry and the complexity of your requirements.
Make sure you research pricing and include a realistic cost estimate for each project in your roadmap. Also take account of additional or ongoing costs such as new infrastructure costs, subscription fees, annual maintenance and support fees.
5. Establish realistic timelines
Ensuring your projects are adequately resourced is critical to their success, but you can’t tackle everything all at once. Your roadmap should include a realistic schedule and timeline for your projects based upon your priorities, the duration of each project and available resources. Don’t forget to account for constraints that may limit your ability to execute—such as busy seasons.
Leveraging external resources such as consultants can be an effective way to relieve the workload on your in-house staff. As an added benefit, external resources can contribute valuable knowledge and experience, helping you avoid pitfalls and learn from the success of others.
6. Appoint an IT steering committee
Departmental needs and individual opinions vary greatly, so building consensus and ensuring support for the technology roadmap can be difficult.
Appointing an IT steering committee comprised of leaders from IT and other key departments can facilitate communication and help overcome departmental or individualistic thinking. The steering committee can also use the roadmap to monitor project progress and assess the achievement of project objectives.
A document that evolves over time
As your business grows, your priorities may shift and new opportunities or challenges may present themselves.
Your IT strategy may also change as a result. Preparing your technology roadmap is not a one-time event. Rather, it is a living document that should be regularly updated, reconsidered and revised.
Don’t worry about getting your technology roadmap perfect the first time around. Just get it started and keep working on it so that you move closer to achieving your goals.
I’d love to hear about your own experiences. Have you ever created a technology roadmap for your business? How did it go? Let us know in the comments section below.