The business managers of today are faced with a tremendous number of options for digital initiatives and must combine a number of subjects to realise great business impact and results. Websites are no longer a set and forget part of your business. With the evolving nature of the web, digital platforms require constant updates to continually engage digital customers at every touchpoint. To be successful in the digital arena organisations must build a digital vision and roadmap to guide technology decisions and provide direction to achieving business objectives. Without a roadmap in place businesses can end up moving in the wrong direction, moving the right direction but too slowly, or not moving at all.
A digital roadmap is a working document which outlines planned digital projects over the coming months and years. A well thought out roadmap can make the difference between a disorganised set of development plans and a unified strategy that achieves business targets. It provides the ability to communicate a clear direction for your online identity, aligning digital initiatives with business objectives over the short and medium term.
A digital roadmap should focus on achieving concrete results for an organisation such as:
Before starting to develop your digital roadmap, you must have a clear picture of the direction the digital strategy is to take. The most effective roadmaps are one which derive objectives from the overall business strategy and blend with the latest technology trends.
A digital roadmap should encompass all of your present and future digital assets such as websites, apps and software, and the required development actions to build or progress these platforms. Your roadmap should also include plans for supporting your digital marketing activities on email, social media and digital marketing.
To start building your roadmap consider the following questions:
To decide if an item should be included within your roadmap it should be assessed against your business objectives. If it supports a business objective, the next step is to compare it to the organisations SWOT analysis. Does the item address a business weakness or threat? Does it enhance a strength or exploit an opportunity? If yes, then the item is a good contender for the roadmap.
Once you have identified the bones of your digital projects for your roadmap it is a good idea to involve your digital suppliers to review the projects. They will compare the ideas against your competitors and consumer expectation and provide feedback for improvement/development of the idea as well as advise on any potential project dependencies.
A digital roadmap should be a high-level document that acts as a simple reference point to guide the development of digital assets and assist with related business decisions.
The following elements should be included within the roadmap:
Description of the proposed project
This section should give a brief overview about the project and should be easily understood by anyone not directly involved with the digital initiatives.
Objectives and deliverables
Two essential components that should be included within your roadmap, linked to each project, are objectives and deliverables. This directly matches the project with the planned result for the business. An example would be - Objective: Convert prospects to customers. Deliverable: Build campaign landing page.
Dependencies and constraints
It is key within any roadmap to identify the dependencies and constraints that have the ability to impact the project. Identifying these up-front will allow you to plan and take actions to ensure these don’t impact the project, if they do start to become a problem then informed decisions can be easily made.
Your roadmap should list projects in order of priority, with items to be done first at the top of the list. Focus should first be given to immediate issues that need addressing. As these are to be actioned immediately, it is easy to provide detailed information about how these will be approached.
Your roadmap should be a working document which continually evolves. When new items are added to the roadmap they should not automatically added to the bottom of the list. Instead they should be assessed against the projects effectiveness, complexity, dependencies, time constraints and resourcing. Depending on how the project ranks against each of these five factors will determine where in the order of priorities the project should be placed. Ideally you should prioritise projects which are easy to implement and create big impact.
Your digital roadmap should cover digital initiatives over the short and medium term. The greatest density of deliverables should be listed in the first year and should look no further than 3 years ahead as technology moves too fast to allow for such long-term planning.
Budgets should be listed against each project within your roadmap in order to plan expenditure going forward. Determining the value of a project before having scoped all the details can however, be difficult to do. These days digital development should be seen as a program of ongoing development, where expenditure is thought of as an annual ongoing budget. This approach recognises that the process of digital evolution never stops and it therefore makes no sense to apply a fixed budget to them. Moving to an annual ongoing budget makes budgeting much easier for everyone involved. This can be arranged with your supplier through an agreed yearly retainer which allows them to set aside resources dedicated to your needs. If this option is not suited to your business then the alternative is to have your supplier quote on some of the scheduled work and extrapolate these values out over the year to provide an approximate budget.
A digital roadmap should be seen as a working plan that grows and changes as you implement and analyse. Your roadmap should include timeframes to periodically review progress and update/alter the roadmap based on the learnings of past projects and the changing objectives of the business.
Success in the digital arena requires having a digital vision to communicate a clear direction for your online identity. A digital roadmap plans a clear pathway for this vision by matching digital initiatives with business objectives. Once you have built your roadmap out you can start to implement it through a series of projects. Be sure to set achievable business goals and measurable metrics to manage the process and to continuously assess your progress. In the end, you will position your business to deliver a digital experience that will attract more buyers, maximize digital revenues, maintain customer loyalty and differentiate your brand in the competitive marketplace.