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Rather interesting observations about technological roadmapping

11:10am 17 September 2010

Nicholas Jones
Nicholas Jones

Co-Director, Centre for eResearch, Auckland Uni

This presentation discusses the role of technology roadmapping (TRM) as a mechanism for better linking product developments to market requirements and also for linking industry and academia together.

Technology roadmaps originate from product and technology planning but are also applied to support higher-level strategic and long-range planning. The TRM process has been able to be adopted by organizations in various industries due to its flexible nature. The process stimulates vital communication and consensus building between participants with different perspectives and backgrounds, particularly bridging the gap between market needs and technology developed, and results in a graphic representation of the firm’s future path.

We conducted research involving firms and university students to explore the effectiveness of TRM and its benefits for the participants. Postgraduate students of computer science, software engineering and management were engaged in ‘Fast-Start TRM’ projects with New Zealand based organisations operating in the ICT/software sector. The students along with their mentors facilitated TRM workshops within the organization. For organizations we had a twofold aim of developing their TRM skills and facilitating an initial technology roadmap. For students, we aimed to provide an experience of how organizations undertake strategic planning at a senior management level. In follow-up interviews students and organizations were asked about their experience with TRM and what benefits they derived from the project.

The decision for the organizations to participate in the TRM project was largely technologically driven but led to unexpected results. Firms operating in the ICT/software sector tend to focus on the technological aspects of their products/services hence they expected a largely technological outcome. The techniques applied during the workshops induced them to rethink their current business operations and helped in finding a better focus. A better understanding of the competitive landscape and the commercial side of the business were major benefits. Furthermore, through seeing the business from a different angle, new business opportunities evolved. The collaboration with the university also helped some organizations to overcome internal lack of discipline and gave them new approaches. A supportive effect on strategic and long-range planning was expected if TRM were to be applied and updated on a regular basis.

Students found it interesting to see how theory was applied in an organizational context and to actively participate in that process. Although many did not see themselves in the position of fully facilitating a workshop on their own they found it helpful to gain an applied understanding of TRM. Furthermore, the interaction between students with different academic backgrounds provided opportunities to ‘see what life was like on the other side of the road’. The basic ideas of TRM have persisted in students’ minds after completion of the course and students expect them to be helpful for the future. Some students in the project received job offers as a result of their involvement.

The academic facilitators gained considerable awareness of industry needs both from management and technological perspectives. This has assisted them in areas such as curriculum development and in the development of ongoing research engagements with industry.

Authors

  • Nicholas Jones – The University of Auckland, BeSTGRID, Centre for eResearch
  • Peter Smith – The University of Auckland
  • John Hosking – The University of Auckland, Centre for Software Innovation
  • Elisabeth Krull – The University of Auckland

About Nicholas Jones

Nick Jones is Director of BeSTGRID and Co-Director of the Centre for eResearch, and consults to industry on software engineering and computer science related research problems through the Centre for Software Innovation at The University of Auckland.

Nick has been involved in education, industry, and research-related technology and capability development programmes for the past 8 years, after postgraduate study of IT innovations using social science research methods. Nick’s expertise is in formulating strategy around high tech IT.