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Everyone likes a good business roadmap. Or, at least we think so. But a roadmap is only as good as its directions, which means it's only useful if it gets you where you need to go.

Same principle for digital workplace roadmaps. They have to get your employees to where they need to go. And your business, too. Turns out, employees are believers of a strong digital workplace and say digital technology would result in a more efficient (56%), more collaborative (52%) and more appealing (57%) work environment, according to a 2018 study by Aruba Networks (PDF)

“It’s important to look ahead, but not too far ahead,” said Marcus Dervin, director of WebVine. “A lot can change in a year. Technology features that didn’t exist become available, especially if your digital workplace is based on Office 365’s SharePoint Online. So having a five-year detailed roadmap doesn’t quite make sense, but a three-year high-level one is good to have as a general guide.”

Stay on Top of the Platform Roadmap

It helps to know what the vendors are up to when crafting your digital workplace roadmap. It can influence your internal roadmap and decision making, Dervin said. 

“In Microsoft’s case, the Office 365 roadmap provides an abundance of information that is updated on an almost daily basis. Staying on top of the platform roadmap will ensure you can make the best decisions for your digital workplace.”

Related Article: If Only Digital Workplaces Came With a Roadmap

Know Your Audience, Tailor the Roadmap Accordingly

Consider different versions or formats for your roadmap based on who will be consuming it, according to Chris Radcliffe, digital workplace advisor for Habanero Consulting Group. “Your digital workplace team might want something very detailed that lists out the features, requirements, value and owners and shows relative timing,” Radcliffe said. “Your executive or sponsors might want something more high-level, such as a plan-on-a-page that shows the major phases or streams of work underway. End users or employees are likely interested in something in-between and are curious in both what is coming and when they should expect it impacting their life.”

Don’t Oversell or Over-commit Yourself 

As compelling as it may be to have a solid roadmap in place, don’t get too caught up in going deep into the future, and don't oversell, Radcliffe said. “One of the biggest lessons our industry has learned is that it’s really hard to predict into the future,” he said. “How many times have you seen a three-year plan fall apart after the first year?” 

It may be better to adopt more of an agile approach that builds checkpoints and reassessments along the way, according to Radcliffe. This will include a vision and a backlog that demonstrates concepts or features for the future. The alternative may be over-committing the team to scope and dates that “can be very dangerous if you are looking beyond a three- to six-month window.”

Related Article: The Lightning-Fast Evolution of the Digital Workplace Continues

Consider Ways People Work

Remember the one constant when formulating your digital workplace roadmap: you are trying to improve the way people work. When thinking about what’s needed for a digital workplace roadmap, we also need to consider how people are working in the first place, said Brett Hansen, VP and GM of client software and security for Dell. “Most workers are accustomed to having powerful tools, data and applications at their disposal on their personal devices, and they expect the same kind of experience from their professional applications, devices and work environments,” Hansen said. “As employees increasingly work from non-traditional spaces, new IT and technology needs must be considered to ensure security, connectivity and optimal performance no matter where they are.”

Bring the Value Early and Often

The secret to any sustainable initiative? Make sure you bring the value to the business and employees early, Radcliffe said. Don’t wait a year to build something magical if you can get an MVP out in a matter of weeks or months. “The world is shifting to more of an agile approach, and delivering value early builds trust and momentum that will be the oxygen for your initiative to survive,” he said. “Delivering early also gives you the chance to get real feedback from end users which helps bring valuable insight and feedback to your team that can help you make the necessary adjustments that will drive a better solution or change experience.”

Related Article: The Digital Workplace Is All About Connectivity

All About Research, Prioritization, Planning

Remember overall that the best roadmaps are formed from a healthy dose of research, prioritization and planning. While you might want to lock yourself in a room and come up with a plan on your own, Radcliffe said, the best roadmaps come when you’ve rolled up your sleeves and do real research to understand the biggest needs. “You need to talk to real users to understand the current employee experiences, executives to understand the organizational priority and alignment and technical teams to understand the potential scope and efforts required,” Radcliffe said. “Then through the planning and prioritization efforts, you can carefully select the right initiatives and investments to go first.”