Roadmapping: The S-Plan Approach to Identifying and Exploring Strategic, Innovation and Business Opportunities

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Roadmapping: The S-Plan Approach to Identifying and Exploring Strategic, Innovation and Business Opportunities

Technology roadmapping has become one of the world's most widely used approaches for supporting innovation and strategy. First developed by Motorola more than 25 years ago, the roadmapping approach has been adopted and adapted, as roadmaps support the development, alignment and communication of company-level strategic plans. Cutter Fellow, Dr. Robert Phaal will help your enterprise learn how to use this powerful, structured framework approach to address three key questions every organization must continuously consider: Where do we want to go? Where are we now? How can we get there?

Roadmaps provide a unifying structure and focus throughout the strategic planning and innovation processes. To overcome a common stumbling block organizations often encounter when applying roadmapping, Dr. Phaal, and his colleagues at the Centre for Technology Management at the University of Cambridge (UK), developed the S-Plan approach to creating roadmaps, which supports identifying and exploring strategic, innovation, and business opportunities.

Dr. Rob Phaal will work with your organization to tailor the S-Plan method to its specific needs and its business context, and help your organization understand how to use roadmaps at the front end of strategy and innovation to support identification and exploration of opportunities and then later to develop and implement strategic plans. In addition, you'll realize important organizational benefits from this approach, including improved communication and consensus-based decisionmaking; team building and network development; greater support for strategy and innovation processes; more customized roadmapping; a strengthened interface between corporate research and business units; and better prioritization of investments.

The stages of the S-Plan process are focused around multifunctional workshops, including:

1. Planning meeting. Issues relating to customizing the S-Plan are used as a checklist to support the planning activity, which is a collaborative design process.

2. A workshop comprising four elements:

  1. Develop a strategic landscape, based on presentations and brainstorming activity, using the roadmap template. The goal is to share and capture as many perspectives as possible across a broad scope, as well as to identify key strategic issues that impact the organization.
  2. Identify and prioritize strategic opportunities, using the strategic landscape as a resource and to provide context.
  3. Explore priority opportunities, using the roadmap template as a common structure.
  4. Review opportunities and agree on future actions, and identify key learning points (about the organization and roadmapping process).

3. Review meeting. After the workshop, together with Dr. Phaal, you'll review your progress to ensure that the actions and learning points are taken forward.

A principal benefit of the S-Plan approach is the communication that is engendered, both during the workshop and afterwards, using roadmaps as a common reference point and as language to support the ongoing dialogue that is essential for effective innovation and strategy development and implementation.

Designing a Process to Fit Your Needs

Roadmaps are inherently flexible. The strength of the S-Plan approach comes from its flexibility. Dr. Phaal will help your organization adapt the methods, taking into account the context, architecture, and process that will make the roadmap a successful tool for your enterprise:

  • Context. Dr. Phaal will help you examine the nature of the issue that triggered your organization's interest in roadmapping along with any constraints that will affect the approach adopted. Careful consideration is given to establishing clear business need, ownership, and identifying key issues and perspectives.
  • Architecture. The roadmap is a dynamic systems framework, providing a structure within which the evolution of the system of interest can be mapped, considering time frames and structure, and comprising layers and sublayers. Generally, this system relates to innovation, where there is a need to align markets with applications and resources over time. Dr. Phaal will guide your roadmap architecture to provide a common language, supporting communication between different communities.
  • Process. This includes the staged set of activities needed to build roadmap content, make decisions, identify and agree upon actions, and maintain the roadmap in the future. The workshop agenda is designed to incorporate a logical set of facilitated activities, which can be combined in a flexible way to address the issues of interest.

As a result of this design/plan activity, your organization will experience one of the key benefits of roadmapping: the communication associated with developing and disseminating roadmaps. The hands-on nature of the S-Plan process enables your group to takes responsibility for building a common visual representation of its strategic context, issues, goals, and plans.

Note: S-Plan is typically a precursor to embarking on the T-Plan Approach to Aligning Technology Development with Product and Market Strategy