Another approach to technology roadmaps

This content is 1 year old. I don't routinely update old blog posts as they are only intended to represent a view at a particular point in time. Please be warned that the information here may be out of date.

Over the years, I’ve looked at a variety of approaches to mapping technology development, often aligned to strategy.

I’m a visual person – definitely working with maps, not lists. This means I am attracted to models that help to visualise the direction in which things are headed.

Many people will be familiar with models like Gartner’s Magic Quadrants, or Forrester Waves. I was intrigued today when I joined a webcast about the Thoughtworks Technology Radar. Unlike the models I mentioned from the big analyst firms, the Thoughtworks model is not “pay to play”. It’s purely based on the experiences of the people working at Thoughtworks (“the Thoughtworkers”). There are no partnerships to influence – just product/service experience.

How is does this model work?

Thoughtworkers propose “blips”, and these are assessed by a Technical Advisory Board before being placed (or not) on the Radar.

The Radar itself is split into quadrants. These relate to techniques, platforms, tools, and languages and frameworks. There are also four concentric rings for hold, assess, trial and adopt.

Each blip is assigned to a quadrant. It will then move through the rings as Thoughtworkers gain experience and form a view on the application of the technology or service.

Only around a third of proposed blips make it to the published volume (currently volume 27).

The diagram that accompanies this post shows the Radar, but with detailed information removed. To discover what the numbers represent, check out the current volume on the Thoughtworks website.

I asked about technologies that are reaching the end of their life and need to be sunsetted or retired. That’s not something Thoughtworks currently has the resources to manage. Blips are not maintained – they are a point in time view (like a blog post!). If a technology becomes harmful or problematic it may move back to the assess ring or be called out in hold.

Bring your own radar

So, why am I so excited? Well, I think this is something worthy of investigation as a wider tool. Almost ten years ago, I wrote about my experiences of technology standardisation at Fujitsu. More recently, I’ve adopted a model for roadmapping technologies that I have used with clients. I also had a failed attempt at technology standardisation (it lacked the resources or corporate buy-in to maintain and, to be fair, was probably superseded by vendor-supplied frameworks).

But what if I could come up with something like the Technology Radar for the technologies that we my employer uses in solutions? Maybe with Principal Consultants and Architects as gatekeepers? I initially thought that the Radar is Thoughtworks’ intellectual property, used as a marketing tool. Then I discovered it’s also available on an open-source basis to “Bring Your Own Radar” to allow Thoughtworks clients to visualise their technologies.

I probably need to think this through a little more and clarify the value I’m looking to gain. Right now, it’s just a collection of thoughts bouncing around my head but I’m sure it will form some order soon!