Building A Roadmap

An old crooked house
Before you build, build a roadmap. It will keep things straight. Image from Maria*PA's Flickr photostream.

If you were to build a house, how would you proceed? Could you do it without planning? Could you just start picking up some planks, nails and start hammering?

You might be able to get lucky, but it is likely your structure will look and function with major flaws. Blueprints for what needs to be done and how the various systems inside the home – electrical, plumbing, framing, etc. – need to work together in a synchronous fashion.

The hack approach is not uncommon when it comes to building systems in a business as well. There is a lack of blueprints that guide how different systems should work together. How the sales system should function and feed the marketing system is typically organically grown. The gaps become tolerable, rather than something to address for greater gain and cohesiveness.

Each department in an organization has a set of processes, technology and people. How information flows between the various groups will prevent issues like multiple data entry, dropped customer service and inaction on timely sales follow-up.

If your business is growing, the pain can become more acute, especially when there are more people involved between disparate systems. To get to the goal of a tightly integrated business, the first step is to build a roadmap that can guide how the systems should work together and create a flow. Here is what is important for building a business roadmap:

  • Itemize tasks. Outline the set of steps that are required for fulfilling what a customer requires. Center the tasks around the customer and their experience. Some customers are internal. For example, accounting may have a common external customer, however, they need to produce reporting for sales to use in weekly meetings.
  • Identify key communications. When a step happens, who needs communications? Either a team member or the customer needs some kind of notification. Turn the communication into an opportunity to delight. Personalize as well as standardize the touch point.
  • Integrate data. There are typically database systems that each team manages. Some data will be redundant while others will require new inputs. Create a data map that identifies how data will flow between the systems. This may require new customizations to each system. Create a task list of required changes. Then examine the work to account for system sensitivities. If there are updates in one place, ensure the overall integrations are robust enough to manage changes.
  • Identify technology requirements. With process, data and the customer experience identified, fill in the gaps with the required technology. Ensure that there is protection from technology obsolescence. If there is an opportunity to house everything within one malleable system in the cloud, then explore this option in depth. It is the most ideal, for there is less management and less transition points. Otherwise, integrate multiple technologies building requirements for data flow between the systems.

After your business roadmap has been built, ensure the stakeholders within departments are bought in. There needs to be a champion of the entire project to see the roadmap through.

Leadership is critical for delivering a new business system. People that were used to doing things one way may have to adjust to a more integrated approach. Your leadership should ensure the vision is clear for everyone and help the team get there.

If you want to learn more, learn How I Work here.

If you could change how your business works, what would it look like?

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