When I wrote the first part of this series, we were developing our mid- and long-term roadmap at Youredi. While I was writing the previous four blog posts, Youredi’s roadmap had been finalized, therefore I thought I should seize the opportunity to talk about the general idea behind roadmaps.
Throughout my career I have been actively participating in creating roadmaps – I have also read quite a few roadmaps written by others. Some were excellent, and other roadmaps were less than great. What differentiates a good roadmap from a bad one? In my opinion, there is one common mistake in the not-so-good roadmaps; this is what I will reveal throughout this post.
Roadmaps Focus Your Direction
One may ask what’s the value of a roadmap? Most commonly, the roadmap is important because it focuses your direction in terms of the product or service you are providing. This focus narrows your expectation of how the product, or service, should evolve during a given time frame. Your roadmap should also include a detailed plan for executing the strategy, focusing on current (and potential) challenges with the product / service design, shortcomings of the features, and a detailed articulation of how these challenges should be tackled. Roadmaps are created to serve as the direction to continue in to achieve the common goal - the evolution of your product / service. An effective roadmap will help the entire organization to successfully advance the existing product or service, and to map out a plan to introduce new products and services to the market.
As I see it, a good roadmap should not exclude discussing the lifecycle of the products or services. Roadmaps need to include a clear statement about the product lifecycle - whether the specific product is in the stage of introduction, growth, maturity, or decline, or if it has reached the stage of withdrawal. Missing out on considering the product lifecycle in roadmaps is an all too common mistake. Why should one embrace the idea of product lifecycle? I will explain this using a simple example.
Roadmaps and the Product Lifecycle
The markets in the information and communication technology (ICT) industry change extremely fast, and because of this your new, cool product will eventually become obsolete. Despite the continuous updates and patches, it may not fulfill your customers’ needs anymore; thus the return on investment will decline.
A truly great roadmap recognizes the fact that humans seek out innovation: we are constantly searching for better products, higher quality solutions, and more advanced technologies. The rapidly changing ICT environment, and the enormous amount of new innovations, prove that older generation products will disappear from the market. This happens once the lifecycle has gone through the decline period, reaching the time for withdrawal.
You may recall that in the last blog post I briefly referred to the example of the Volkswagen Group. Is there anyone today that doesn’t know about the Volkswagen Golf? I doubt it. Did you know that the first generation Volkswagen Golf was released already in 1974? Today consumers can purchase the 7th generation Volkswagen Golf. As you might guess, the first generation and the 7th generation ones have nothing but wheels and the steering wheel in common. Volkswagen as a brand has successfully maintained its position in the market by understanding the need of innovation in order to meet consumers’ demands. People still use the VW Golf for the same purpose in 2016 as in 1974: getting from A to B, but the constant evolvement of technology made the VW Golf become one of the most sold cars in the world.
The Volkswagon Golf example demonstrates perfectly that roadmaps need to focus on development. Dreaming up and developing new generation products, and services, during the growth and maturity periods of the product lifecycle will help your company to stay ahead of the game. This ensures you will achieve continued success in the rapidly changing, evolving market space.
Products, of course, do exist that haven’t changed since their introduction to the market. Just think of Coca-Cola – the recipe hasn’t been modified in the past 130 years! However, the rapid pace that things are changing in the ICT industry is so fast. One always needs to be thinking about the continuous innovation, and development, of current products and services.
Youredi's Roadmap & Ongoing Development
Keeping the phases of the product life cycle in mind is an important part of Youredi’s roadmap. Our integration platform is still far from the decline phase of the product life cycle, however, we do recognize that the platform requires ongoing development. As the industry is evolving, our platform will reach the decline phase of the product life cycle, although that time is still rather far away in the future. Knowing this has encouraged us to think forward and plan our future solutions into our current roadmap. Keeping abreast of developments, we will be able to provide our customers with more modern, efficient and strategic integration solutions.
Your product may be the best in the world right now, but you need to remember that only continuous development can help you staying on the top of your game. In the beginning of the 20th century Henry Ford’s Model T was THE car, but soon enough it had become outdated, as the technology evolved.
It’s still damn beautiful, though.