Technology Roadmaps are Essential for Success

“A goal without a plan is just a wish” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

For any technology department, group, or organization to be successful long-term they must develop and use a technology plan. This plan is often frequently referred to as a technology roadmap. When designed and used correctly, this roadmap can be a helpful tool for aligning resources, setting priorities, and communicating with relevant stakeholders.

A roadmap can be an excellent tool for technology leaders to use so that everyone understands the priorities and remain focused on the right tasks. As the demand for health IT solutions continues to increase, it can be overwhelming for the staff to keep up with project requests and increased workload. Just as a rudder on a sailboat can help steer the boat when the wind hits the sails, a roadmap can be used to ensure the team stays on course, even in the midst of difficulty and change.

In addition to benefits the team can derive from having a roadmap, it can be an excellent tool for technology leaders to use when working with the business. Stakeholders can review the roadmap to understand better when various projects are scheduled to start and when they will be completed. This can help IT leaders be more customer-focused by answering more definitively “when” rather than saying “no” or “sometime”. It is always easier to plan for something if we understand when as opposed to not knowing dates or timeframes. Having projects listed on a roadmap can also reinforce to stakeholders that their requests will be taken seriously and that there is a plan to address their needs.

While a technology roadmap can look very different from organization-to-organization, there are some key elements that a technology plan must have to be successful:

Needs to Align with the Business 

A technology roadmap must align with the business objectives for it to be effective. This is one of the reasons why it is so essential for the CIO to be a part of the strategic planning process. 

A roadmap developed in a vacuum, without taking into account the strategic objectives of the organization, is doomed to fail.

An effective roadmap requires active input from all key stakeholders, not just clinical or administrative. It is easy for a roadmap to become skewed towards a specific area or initiative if all of the key stakeholders are not involved. For example, an organization can focus solely on clinical areas while ignoring other organizational needs such as HR systems, supply chain, etc. CIO’s also need to avoid focusing on specific IT projects while excluding other critical IT areas. I have seen examples where CIO’s can become so focused on their “favorite” projects that all of the funding and planning go towards these initiatives and critical areas such as IT infrastructure or IT security are neglected (much to the future detriment of the organization).

Clear to Understand

For any plan (technology or otherwise) to be effective, it must be easy to understand. Technology can be confusing enough for others outside of IT without adding “tech speak” to the roadmap. 

> A roadmap should be very easy to understand at all levels of the organization. 

Ideally, you should be able to use the same roadmap when presenting to the Board of Directors as you would while sharing with various stakeholders in your organization. 

One way to add clarity to a roadmap is to determine what projects are important to include and exclude all others. At any given time, IT teams can easily have 100+ projects in-flight or queued up to work on. If each of these projects are added to the project list, it will become too cluttered, and the projects that were important to highlight will get lost. 

Must be Flexible and Updated Regularly

One thing is for certain in healthcare, and that is change. 

If your roadmap is so rigid that it does not allow for change, it will quickly become stale and ineffective. 

It is important to guard against becoming so strict that the plan ends up taking precedence over the business objectives that changed somewhere along the way. If the plan gets out of lockstep with the business, the plan needs to re-align to the business, not the other way around. Technology enables the business objectives, and the roadmap should reflect this at all times.

Because healthcare is changing so rapidly, it is important to review the roadmap and make any necessary updates. Depending on your organization, this could be every month, quarter or year. This can be especially important during budget planning season to make sure the budgets align with the plan for the next year. If budgets change, the roadmap will likely need to be updated to reflect the new fiscal reality.

Technology roadmaps are an essential tool that CIO’s must create and use as a way to communicate where technology is headed. Success takes careful planning and the ability to remain nimble in the face of change. This is especially true as the healthcare industry is driven to change by both internal and external pressures. To quote Yogi Berra, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else”.

“Success doesn’t just happen. It’s planned for” -Anonymous