How To Build a Roadmap for Your Digital Business Transformation


Let’s say you want to take your business to the Cloud --  How do you do it?

If you’re a small shop or a startup, it might be easy to just swipe your credit card and get going.

If, on the other hand, you’re a larger business that wants to start your journey to the Cloud, with a lot of investments and people that you need to bring along, you need a roadmap.

The roadmap will help you deal with setbacks, create confidence in the path, and help ensure that you can get from point A to point B (and that you know what point B actually is.)  By building an implementable roadmap for your business transformation, you can also build a coalition of the willing to help you get their faster.  And you can design your roadmap so that your journey flows continuous business value along the way.

In the book, Leading Digital: Turning Technology into Business Transformation, George Westerman, Didier Bonnet, and Andrew McAfee, share how top leaders build better roadmaps for their digital business transformation.

Why You Need to Build a Roadmap for Your Digital Transformation

If you had infinite time and resources, maybe you could just wing it, and hope for the best.   A better approach is to have a roadmap as a baseline.  Even if your roadmap changes, at least you can share the path with others in your organization and get them on board to help make it happen.

Via Leading Digital:

“In a perfect world, your digital transformation would deliver an unmatched customer experience, enjoy the industry's most effective operations, and spawn innovative, new business models.  There are a myriad of opportunities for digital technology to improve your business and no company can entertain them all at once.  The reality of limited resources, limited attention spans, and limited capacity for change with force focused choices.  This is the aim of your roadmap.”

Find Your Entry Point

Your best starting point is a business capability that you want to exploit.

Via Leading Digital:

“Many companies have come to realize that before they can create a wholesale change within their organization, they have to find an entry point that will begin shifting the needle.  How? They start by building a roadmap that leverages existing assets and capabilities.  Burberry, for example, enjoyed a globally recognized brand and a fleet of flagship retail locations around the world.  The company started by revitalizing its brand and customer experience in stores and online.  Others, like Codelco, began with the core operational processes of their business.  Caesars Entertainment combined strong capabilities in analytics with a culture of customer service to deliver a highly personalized guest experience.  There is no single right way to start your digital transformation.  What matters is that you find the existing capability--your sweet spot--that will get your company off the starting blocks.

Once your initial focus is clear, you can start designing your transformation roadmap.  Which investments and activities are necessary to close the gap to your vision?  What is predictable, and what isn't? What is the timing and scheduling of each initiative? What are the dependencies between them?  What organizational resources, such as analytics skills, are required?”

Engage Practitioners Early in the Design

If you involve others in your roadmap, you get their buy-in, and they will help you with your business transformation.

Via Leading Digital:

“Designing your roadmap will require input from a broad set of stakeholders.  Rather than limit the discussion to the top team, engage the operational specialists who bring an on-the-ground perspective.  This will minimize the traditional vision-to-execution gap.  You can crowd-source the design.  Or, you can use facilitated workshops, as as 'digital days,' as an effective way to capture and distill the priorities and information you will need to consider.  We've seen several Digital Masters do both.

Make no mistake; designing your roadmap will take time, effort, and multiple iterations.  But you will find it a valuable exercise.  it forces agreement on priorities and helps align senior management and the people tasked to execute the program.  Your roadmap will become more than just a document.  If executed well, it can be the canvas of the transformation itself.  Because your roadmap is a living document, it will evolve as your implementation progresses.”

Design for Business Outcome, Not Technology

When you create your roadmap, focus on the business outcomes.   Think in terms of adding incremental business capabilities.   Don’t make it a big bang thing.   Instead, start small, but iterate on building business capabilities that take advantage of Cloud, Mobile, Social, and Big Data technologies.

Via Leading Digital:

“Technology for its own sake is a common trap.  Don't build your roadmap as a series of technology projects.  Technology is only part of the story in digital transformation and often the least challenging one.  For example, the major hurdles for Enterprise 2.0 platforms are not technical.  Deploying the platform is relatively straightforward, and today's solutions are mature.  The challenge lies in changing user behavior--encouraging adoption and sustaining engagement in the activities the platform is meant to enable.

Express your transformation roadmap in terms of business outcomes.  For example, 'Establish a 360-degree understanding of our customers.'  Build into your roadmap the many facets of organizational change that your transformation will require customer experiences, operational processes, employee ways of working, organization, culture, communication--the list goes on.  This is why contributions from a wide variety is so critical.”

There are lots of way to build a roadmap, but the best thing you can do is put something down on paper so that you can share the path with other people and start getting feedback and buy-in.

You’ll be surprised but when you show business and IT leaders a roadmap, it helps turn strategy into execution and make things real in people’s minds.

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