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9 steps to create an innovation roadmap

An innovation strategy is the basis of every successful company. It provides the orientation and focus for the future. A success factor is the communication to all employees and their commitment, so that everyone can participate successfully in the implementation.

9 steps to create an innovation roadmap

A very useful tool is the innovation roadmap. It supports the process of developing an innovation strategy, the effective communication of the strategy and of course its implementation.

What is an innovation roadmap?

A roadmap is like a timetable for innovation success. It is the visual representation of strategic goals and themes along a time axis. This strategy tool is the navigation system and specifies when which topics are to be processed. Depending on its purpose and orientation, it can be structured according to the following elements:

  • Trends
  • Markets
  • Technologies
  • Search boxes
  • Produce
  • Projects
  • Measures such as marketing and competence development.

The presentation and its elements themselves depend on how the strategy is defined. In concrete terms, this means, for example, that trends or markets that are to be worked on or technologies that are to be developed are in the foreground.

Why are innovation roadmaps so important?

An innovation strategy is the core of innovation management and a basis for innovation success. There are thousands of innovation issues an organization can deal with. But only some of them can really bring the company forward and have high success and sales potential. A strategy process identifies the issues that harmonize with the company's business model on the one hand and are a major lever for future success on the other.

But an innovation strategy is only successful when it is set in motion. This requires commitment from all internal stakeholders so that everyone pulls together and supports the development and implementation of the issues. This is precisely where the innovation roadmap comes into play. Your advantages are:

  • Support of the strategy process in innovation management
  • Clear illustration of the objectives in a graphic
  • Simple communication of the strategy through its visual impact
  • Orientation in innovation management for all participants
  • Support in coordination with top management

This makes it clear how important and effective an innovation roadmap is in innovation management.

Process for creating an innovation roadmap

The creation of an innovation roadmap is an intensive process. The following nine steps can be recommended as an effective approach.

Step 1: Determine the purpose and content of the innovation roadmap

Before starting the development of the innovation roadmap, the purpose of the tool must be defined. This determines the focus and content of the roadmap. For example, do you want a technology roadmap for technology management or do you want to react to megatrends and trends in the long term?

The framework conditions for the roadmap are derived from these considerations, which are to be discussed and taken carefully at the beginning:

  • Elements (trends, technologies, products, projects etc)
  • Time horizon (short-term, e. g. 3 years, or long-term, e. g. 10 years)
  • Role and integration in operational innovation management
These specifications influence the further process of developing and creating a roadmap.

Step 2: Identify and analyse the strategic issues

The innovation roadmap is usually presented in the final version on only one page, but behind it lies much research, analysis and reflection. In other words, a very intensive knowledge process forms the basis of the innovation strategy, where the important future topics are identified and evaluated. Tools are for example:

  • Trend research and analysis
  • Technology analysis and patent searches
  • Market research and market analyses
  • Customers and Lead User Workshops
  • Analysis of core competencies
  • SWOT analysis
  • Expert interviews
  • Employee workshops

This step is intended to determine which topics are important for the future of the company and have priority in innovation management.

Step 3: Specify the parameters for the topics

In accordance with the definitions in the first step, the parameters are now also specified by topic. Depending on the requirements, these are the time horizon, the priority, possible key figures for measurement and interactions with other topics.

Step 4: Release and commitment by management

Before the rollout, the contents should be approved by the management and their commitment obtained. Since the innovation roadmap is the strategic basis for innovation activities in the coming years, the involvement of top management is a key success factor. This is also because they are the most important promoters in the implementation.

Step 5: Visualize the innovation roadmap

The next step is to prepare the roadmap graphically. The visualization has a great influence on whether the tool is accepted in practice. Here a professional representation by a graphic designer is recommended, because an aesthetic, appealing preparation can have a very big effect.

Step 6: Communicate the innovation roadmap

In order to bring an innovation roadmap to life, all employees must be involved and informed as far as possible in order to gain acceptance and support. Therefore, this step involves intensive communication. Information events, presentations, posters etc. are recommended. But communication is also a balancing act. On the one hand, as many employees as possible should be informed; on the other hand, strategic information should not leave the company. Therefore, special attention should be paid to this. 

Step 7: Integrate into operational innovation management

Another important step in reviving the innovation roadmap is its integration into operational innovation management. Because communication alone will only have a limited effect; it also requires vitalization in the innovation processes.

The innovation roadmap is thus the basis for the search and development of ideas. On the basis of the innovation roadmap, regular creativity workshops for the targeted collection of ideas can take place.

The idea process should also evaluate proposals on the basis of their strategic relevance in the innovation roadmap.

The entire innovation portfolio is also to be regularly compared with the innovation roadmap: Are all important roadmap topics addressed?

This makes it clear that the innovation roadmap is an important strategic tool that is very strongly integrated into the operational processes and has an impact.

Step 8: Monitor target attainment

In combination with the previous step, integration into operational innovation management, monitoring is imposed via the innovation roadmap. It must be analysed and evaluated at regular intervals whether the objectives of the roadmap can be achieved. Measures must be taken in the event of deviations.

Step 9: Review of the innovation roadmap

As we operate in a very dynamic, turbulent and volatile world, the review of the innovation roadmap itself is an important part of the roadmap process. The roadmap must become a living tool and be adapted to new framework conditions if necessary. On the one hand, this requires a continuous review of the topics with regard to their strategic relevance. For example, it may be possible to change or delete targets from the roadmap. On the other hand, new topics which arise in the field must also be included. This review must be handled very carefully. New topics cannot simply be added or existing ones deleted. This requires extensive analysis, as this change has a significant impact on all innovation activities.

Conclusion - 9 steps to create an innovation roadmap

The innovation roadmap is a very valuable tool in innovation management because it strongly supports the development and implementation of the innovation strategy. As an integrative component, it provides orientation for all employees in all innovation activities so that everyone pulls in the same direction - namely innovation success. Therefore, no company should do without an innovation roadmap. The process described here is an optimal guide and supports the development of a practical roadmap.

Tanja Eschberger-Friedl

With her clear and focused way of working, Tanja supports you with strategic innovation management and the successful development of product, process, and market innovations. Tanja always keeps an eye on the essentials. Holistic solutions are her aim. She applies her specialist knowledge as a scrum master and agility coach to achieve this.

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