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Application Roadmap

An application roadmap is a strategic tool that outlines the evolution of software applications within an organization over a specified timeframe.


What is the application roadmap?

An application roadmap is a strategic tool that outlines the evolution of each software application within an organization over a specified timeframe.

It provides a visual representation of the planned initiatives, enhancements, retirements, or replacements of applications.

This way, the roadmap aligns IT projects with business goals, ensuring technology supports the company's overall objectives.

📚 Related: Application Modernization Roadmap

Great roadmap examples demonstrate various perspectives based on the lifespan, functionality, business importance, capabilities, IT components, and ownership of the application.

Distinction from other roadmaps

While there are various types of roadmaps, such as product, modernization, or project roadmaps, the application roadmap is unique. It focuses solely on software applications, their interdependencies, and their alignment with business needs.

App roadmaps address the technical and strategic aspects of applications. Their purpose is to ensure that applications remain relevant and efficient in the constantly evolving IT landscape.

In contrast, product roadmaps focus on features or releases, and app modernization roadmaps focus on transforming legacy systems.


Benefits – Why is app roadmap used?

An application roadmap isn't static; it's a dynamic tool that offers a multitude of benefits to organizations. Here's why you should utilize it:

1. Strategic alignment

An application roadmap ensures that all IT initiatives align with the company's strategic goals. By visualizing the trajectory of software applications, organizations can make informed decisions that resonate with their long-term objectives.

2. Resource optimization

By providing a clear view of upcoming projects and changes, the roadmap allows for better allocation of resources. This includes financial and human resources, ensuring that teams are adequately equipped and not overburdened.

3. Risk mitigation

Understanding the lifecycle of applications and their interdependencies can help in identifying potential risks. A roadmap helps to tackle problems like technical debt, security issues, and integration challenges before they become major concerns.

4. Stakeholder communication

A well-structured application roadmap serves as a communication tool. You should share it with executives, project managers, and technical teams, to ensure everyone understands IT plans.

5. Informed decision making

With a comprehensive view of the application landscape, organizations can make data-driven decisions. The roadmap provides key details for tasks such as removing old apps, purchasing new technology, or altering a project's course.

6. Adaptability to change

The IT landscape is ever-evolving, and organizations need to be agile. An application roadmap allows adjustments to fit changes in technology, business needs, or market dynamics.

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Which teams use application roadmaps?

Application roadmaps are not exclusive to a single department or team within an organization. Their comprehensive nature makes them valuable across various domains. Here's a breakdown of the teams that typically leverage application roadmaps and their specific use cases:

IT architects (enterprise, solution, technical)

For IT architects, the roadmap is a blueprint. It helps them understand the current application situation and plan for future technology improvements. They use it to identify redundancies, streamline processes, and ensure that the technology stack remains relevant and efficient.

Business transformation managers

These professionals are at the forefront of driving change within the organization. An application roadmap helps them see the IT landscape clearly and find areas that need updating or changing. It aids them in aligning IT initiatives with business objectives and ensuring that transformation projects deliver tangible results.

Project managers

For project managers, the roadmap is a scheduling and resource allocation tool. It shows the order of IT projects, and helps with task importance, resource allocation, and finishing projects on time. It also aids in risk management, allowing project managers to identify potential challenges and devise mitigation strategies.

C-Level executives

For top-tier management, the application roadmap offers a high-level view of the organization's IT direction. It helps them understand how IT projects align with business goals and helps them track the costs.

Operational teams

Operational teams, such as IT support and maintenance, benefit from the roadmap by getting insights into the lifecycle of applications. It helps them get ready for future changes, assign support resources, and make sure they can handle the changing IT environment.


Key elements of an application roadmap

Creating an application roadmap requires gathering many technical and operational details. You can manually collect and utilize these with Excel or road mapping tools.

Alternatively, you can systematically survey and manage these through an application portfolio management tool, such as LeanIX EAM.

Keep in mind, that the information gathered directly affects team collaboration and the success of the roadmap's implementation.

The more comprehensive the data, the clearer the roadmap becomes. Here are the essential elements:

  • Provider/vendor: This element captures the companies behind specific products. It is beneficial when organizing a roadmap by provider relations.
  • Applications: At the heart of the roadmap are the applications themselves. This includes details about each application, its purpose, functionalities, and how it fits into the broader IT infrastructure.
  • Application successor: This refers to the applications that will replace or succeed current ones. If you’re in the evaluation phase, read our SaaS evaluation guide.
  • Application children: These are applications (“Child” Fact Sheets in LeanIX terms) related to a primary (“Parent”) application in question. Understanding the hierarchy and dependencies shows what additional changes you have to plan for.
  • Lifecycle stage: Showing various stages in an application’s lifecycle, determines how early you should begin with a new application roadmap.
  • Functional fit: This evaluates how well an application meets the business requirements. The worse the functional fit is, the bigger the urgency to add it to the roadmap is.
  • Business criticality: Some applications are more critical to business operations than others. The higher the criticality, the bigger the urgency to add it to the roadmap.
  • Project timeline: Start and end dates help teams coordinate tasks, understand dependencies, and finish projects on time.
  • Application owner or responsible person: Every application should have a designated owner or a responsible admin. When an application becomes part of the roadmap, this person works together with the IT team for any changes.
  • Business capability: This refers to the business functions or processes that the application supports. It allows organizing and reporting on roadmap initiatives.
  • Fact sheets (Bonus): Fact sheets centralize the above information with all architectural objects, such as Applications, IT components, and Business Capabilities. They aid in maintaining dependencies within an IT landscape and better roadmap reporting.

How to build an application roadmap?

Creating a roadmap involves understanding your current applications and future goals in a systematic way.

Here's a step-by-step guide to help you navigate this process:

Step 0: Build an application inventory - Using LeanIX EAM or Excel

Before diving into the roadmap creation, it's crucial to have a clear inventory of your existing applications. LeanIX EAM or Excel can be used to catalog and categorize your applications. This inventory will serve as the foundation for your roadmap, ensuring you have a holistic view of your application landscape.

Step 1: Assess the application portfolio

After making a list of applications, assess the application portfolio and fill in details as explained in the "key elements of an application roadmap" section. This assessment will enable different filtering and views in subsequent steps. By understanding the attributes and characteristics of each application, you can prioritize initiatives more effectively.

Step 2: Align roadmap to business objectives

Every change or initiative on your roadmap should have a clear 'why' behind it. This step ensures that your application changes align with broader business objectives, ensuring that IT efforts directly support organizational goals.

Step 3: Analyze dependencies

Understanding the interdependencies between applications is crucial. This analysis highlights potential risks or challenges when planning changes and ensures you don’t miss any critical dependencies.

Step 4: Try different scenarios with what-if analysis

Before finalizing your roadmap, it's beneficial to explore various scenarios. What-if analyses allow you to anticipate the outcomes of different strategies, helping you choose the most optimal path forward.

Step 5: Visualize and report in different views

Once your roadmap is taking shape, visualizing it from various views can provide different perspectives. Different visualizations provide valuable insights to different stakeholders, such as a timeline view, dependency map, or strategic alignment chart.


Roadmapping vs. Application portfolio management tools
While roadmapping tools are excellent for visualizing and planning, application portfolio management tools like LeanIX EAM offer a more holistic view. They assist in planning and monitoring the application landscape, ensuring the roadmap aligns with the ever-changing IT landscape.

📚 Related: Enterprise Architecture Tool Selection Guide


Potential pitfalls and their mitigation

Making an app roadmap is complicated, therefore, it can bring potential problems for organizations. Knowing and addressing challenges can determine the success or failure of a roadmap.

  1. Not using the right tool
    • Problem: Utilizing inadequate or outdated tools can hinder the efficiency of the roadmap creation process, leading to inaccuracies and missed opportunities.
    • Mitigation: Research and invest in modern application portfolio management tools, like LeanIX EAM, that offer comprehensive features tailored for roadmap creation. Such tools can streamline data collection, visualization, and collaboration, ensuring that the roadmap is both accurate and actionable.
  2. Lack of clear objectives
    • Problem: Not knowing your goals can make the roadmap useless, wasting time and resources.
    • Mitigation: Always start with well-defined business objectives. Ensure that every decision made aligns with these goals.
  3. Not prioritizing applications
    • Problem: Treating all applications as equal can lead to inefficiencies and missed opportunities.
    • Mitigation: Use a systematic approach to prioritize applications based on their business value, technical condition, and other relevant criteria.
  4. Overlooking stakeholder input
    • Problem: Missing out on valuable insights and facing resistance during implementation.
    • Mitigation: Engage stakeholders from various departments early in the process. Their feedback can provide different perspectives and ensure broader buy-in.
  5. Failing to update the roadmap
    • Problem: An outdated roadmap can lead to misaligned efforts and missed opportunities.
    • Mitigation: Treat the roadmap as a living effort/document. Regularly review and update it to reflect changes in the business environment and technology landscape.
  6. Not preparing for change
    • Problem: Resistance to change can derail planned efforts.
    • Mitigation: Implement a robust change management strategy. Educate and train teams on the benefits of the new systems and processes.

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What is an application roadmap?

An application roadmap is a strategic tool that outlines the development trajectory of an organization's software applications over time. It visualizes the current state of applications, planned improvements, and the desired future state, facilitating informed decision-making and alignment with business objectives.

How do I create an application roadmap?

Creating an application roadmap involves gathering detailed information about your application landscape, including existing applications and their attributes. This data forms the basis for analysis, which aids in aligning the roadmap with business objectives, analyzing dependencies, and visualizing different scenarios through what-if analyses.

What should an application roadmap include?

A roadmap should include key elements such as the provider/vendor details, application inventory, lifecycle stages, business criticality, and functional fit. It should also detail timelines, responsible persons, business capabilities, and possibly fact sheets for comprehensive insights. These elements help in creating a roadmap that is detailed and aligned with business needs.

What are the steps of the application roadmap?

The roadmap development follows a structured process starting with building an application inventory. Subsequent steps include assessing the application portfolio, aligning the roadmap to business objectives, analyzing dependencies, trying different scenarios through what-if analyses, and visualizing and reporting in different views. It is essential to choose the right tool for roadmap creation, considering the complexity and requirements of your organization.


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