"Fast-Start Technology Roadmapping" - R. Phaal, CJP Farrukh ...
Revised 6th October 1999 – for IAMOT 2000 (Track 8)
Fast-Start Technology Roadmapping
By: R Phaal, CJP Farrukh and DR Probert
Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge, CB2 1RX, UK
Technology is an important strategic asset for many firms, and there is an increasing need to
include technological considerations in strategy and planning processes. However, establishing
and communicating the linkages between technology resources and company objectives presents
a continuing challenge for many organisations. Technology roadmapping is a technique that has
the potential to support technology strategy and planning. Such maps can take various specific
forms, but generally comprise a time-based chart linking technology developments to future
product and market requirements. The method has been successfully applied in a number of
industrial contexts; however, initiating and maintaining the method on an ongoing basis can be
This paper describes the development and application of a process for supporting the rapid
initiation of technology roadmapping in manufacturing firms. The 'start-up' process comprises a
series of facilitated workshops that bring together various functions in the business, including
technology and marketing. The process supports understanding and communication of the
relationships between market and business requirements, product and service concepts, and
technological solutions. The approach encourages learning and staff involvement, and identifies
key knowledge gaps, enabling a company-specific roadmapping process to be initiated quickly.
In addition, theoretical aspects of technology roadmapping are discussed, in the context of
managing technological knowledge.
Keywords: Technology roadmapping; technology planning; technology strategy.
The effective integration of technological considerations into business strategy is a key aspect of
business planning. Many companies are increasingly aware of the strategic importance of
technology in delivering value and competitive advantage. These issues are becoming more
important as the cost, complexity and rate of technology change increase, together with the
globalisation of competition and technological sources.
The essence of business strategy and planning is concerned with aligning the activities and
resources of the firm in such a way as to generate a sustainable competitive position in the
market place. This requires a sound understanding of the nature of the changing business
environment in the medium to long term (i.e. markets, customers, competition and regulation), in
terms of external opportunities and threats, together with the internal strengths and weaknesses
of the organisation. Technology considerations impact on both external and internal aspects of
strategy, in terms of the sources of new technology and the strength of competitors' technology,
together with the value of technology as a resource within the firm, providing the capability to
develop and deliver products and services. In this context, technology strategy should be
considered as an integral part of business strategy and planning, rather than as a separate process
(e.g. Floyd, 1997, Matthews, 1992 and Metz, 1996).
2. A framework for technology planning
There are many published definitions of technology (e.g. Floyd 1997, Whipp 19991, Steele
1989). Examination of these definitions highlights a number of factors that characterise
technology, which can be considered as a specific type of knowledge. The characteristics of
technology which distinguish it from more general knowledge types are that it is 'action-oriented'
and focuses on the 'know-how' of the organisation. While technology is often associated with
science and engineering ('hard' technology), the processes which enable its effective application
are also important, for example new product and innovation processes, together with
organisational structures and supporting communication / knowledge networks ('soft' aspects of
Technology can be best considered in the business context as an important type of resource, and
hence there are considerable linkages with other resource-based views of the firm (e.g. Grant,
1991), such as competence (Hamel & Prahalad, 1994) and capability approaches (Teece et al.,
1997). A key objective of technology management is to ensure that technological resources are
well linked to business requirements. Temporal aspects are crucial for technology planning, both
in terms of internal cycles within the firm (e.g. strategy, budgeting, planning and new product
development cycles), as well as external factors (e.g. competitor activity, changes in the market,
and technological developments).
A framework has been developed (Fig. 1) which brings together knowledge and resource based
concepts, drawing on work by Andreasen and Hein (1987). This framework addresses the area of
technology planning and comprises three 'levels':
• Business level: the organisation and associated networks, business portfolio, marketing and
financial functions, together with strategy development and implementation processes
required to deliver value to the business into the future (e.g. Mintzberg, 1994).
• Product level: the product and service portfolio and platforms, manufacturing and operations
functions, together with innovation and new product development and introduction processes
(e.g. Twiss, 1986; Kline, 1991).
• Technology level: the technology, engineering and science skills and platforms of the firm,
together with technology management processes required for maintaining the technology
base (i.e. identification, selection, acquisition, exploitation and protection of technology,
Effective alignment of technology with business objectives requires effective mechanisms for
knowledge flow between the levels, in terms of 'pull' to ensure that business and market
requirements are understood at the product and technology levels, and 'push' to ensure that
technological capabilities are understood at the product and business levels. Effective technology
management requires an appropriate balance between market/product pull and
product/technology push. Knowledge management concepts are important in this context, such
as organisational learning, explicit and tacit knowledge (Nonaka, 1991), together with
'dimensions' of knowledge, such as 'know-why', 'know-what', 'know-how', 'know-who' and
'know-when' (Chai et al., 1999), which are reflected in the framework.
Focus: Organisation, networks and business portfolio; marketing & finance
Strategy development and implementation to deliver value into the future
Organisation / Context
Push Product Level Pull
mechanisms Focus: Product /service portfolio and platforms; manufacturing & operations mechanisms
- capabilities - requirements
Innovation, and new product development and introduction over time (knowledge
Focus: Technology-science-engineering base / platforms
Technology management (ISAEP) to maintain the technology base
Fig. 1 - Technology planning framework
Various types of mechanisms can support knowledge flows and learning across levels, including
multidisciplinary teams, staff mobility, communication systems, business processes and
management tools. Examples of such tools include technology roadmapping, together with
portfolio approaches (e.g. Cooper et al., 1997), technology valuation methods (e.g. Hartmann,
1998) and quality function deployment (e.g. Martinich, 1997). The potential competitive
advantage of technological resources can only be fully realised if the knowledge flows between
the levels are efficient and effective, creating a technological capability (i.e. "A capability is the
capacity of a team of resources to perform some task or activity", Grant, 1991).
3. The technology roadmapping process
The technology roadmap (TRM) approach is closely related to the framework described above,
as technology, product and market levels, and the time dimension are primary components.
Technology roadmapping can facilitate supporting and communicating technology strategy and
planning. Roadmaps (or route maps) can take a variety of specific forms, depending on the
particular company context (Barker and Smith, 1995; Willard and McClees, 1987; Groenveld,
1997), but generally comprise a number of 'levels' on a time-based chart (see Fig. 2). Specific
technology programmes or developments are shown on the map, linked to future products and
services, and then to market or business opportunities.
Fig. 2 - Technology Roadmap (TRM) - schematic
Technology roadmaps have been applied successfully in a number of industrial organisations. An
eight stage ‘TRM-project process’ has been documented (EIRMA, 1997) based on the
experiences of a group of European companies. Meanwhile, a group of US industrialists and
academics propose a three phase generic roadmapping process (Strauss et al., 1998). Both groups
indicate that the development of an effective roadmapping process within a business is reliant on
significant vision and commitment for what is an iterative, and initially exploratory, process.
Recent industrial workshops1 in the UK indicate that key practical challenges include:
• Selling the concept – benefits of the TRM process
• Initiating the TRM process – how to get started
• Defining the scope of the TRM process – aims and resources
• Integrating the TRM process into existing business processes and systems
• Maintaining the TRM process on an ongoing basis
Reviews of literature and practice indicate that there is presently no easy way for a company to
address these challenges. However, the preliminary results of a survey1 of UK technical directors
have revealed that 30% of respondents are actively seeking ways to improve technology
planning using TRM. To fill this gap a detailed process is being developed to support the rapid
initiation of technology roadmapping. This 'start-up' process comprises a series of four facilitated
workshops that bring together various functions in the business, including technical and
marketing. The process has been designed cover the key elements of technology roadmapping in
a condensed time frame, to provide a quick overview of the potential benefits of the technique.
The research approach being used to develop the TRM start-up process is described in Section 4.
The process is detailed in Section 5 and the results of the applications are given in Section 6.
4. Research methodology
The development of the TRM start-up process has been undertaken in the context of a
'procedural action' research framework, as set out by Maslen and Lewis (1994); see also Platts
(1993). Procedural action research provides a methodology whereby business systems can be
Industrial interaction as part of an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council sponsored research project
GR/L62900, ‘Strategic Technology Management – linking technology resources to company objectives’.
investigated by a process of active intervention. Action research relies upon extensive access to
organisations, which is usually forthcoming due to the practical, useful nature of the outputs.
There are two stages associated with procedural action research: development and testing.
During the development stage the procedure is expected to change significantly, incorporating
improvements based on experience during its application. During the testing stage the procedure
should not change significantly, although some refinement can be expected. A primary objective
during the testing phase is to develop the contingent framework within which the procedure is
applicable (i.e. a classification of organisations within which the procedure has been validated).
The TRM start-up process has been applied four times to date (see Table 1) in the development
phase of the programme: two times in an 'exploratory' mode (i.e. to develop concepts and
process) and two direct applications of the draft process procedure.
Table 1 - TRM start-up process applications
# Company ID Product Area Turnover ($ millions, '98) Employees
Company Business Unit (BU) Company BU
1* Company A Postal services Future technology / markets 6,750 - >200,000 50
- Automation systems
2* Company B Industrial coding Business unit X - Inkjet 200 140 1,400 60
3 Company B Industrial coding Business unit Y - Laser 200 15 1,400 25
4 Company C Security / access Cards & readers products 20 - 120 -
* Exploratory cases
At this stage the TRM start-up process is judged to be fairly stable, and it is anticipated that the
testing phase will begin shortly. Testing will entail the application of the method in a variety of
industry sectors and company types.
5. TRM start-up process
The aims of the TRM start-up process are to:
1. Support the start-up of company-specific TRM processes.
2. Establish key linkages between technology resources and business drivers.
3. Identify important gaps in market, product and technology intelligence.
4. Develop a ‘first-cut’ technology roadmap.
5. Support technology strategy and planning initiatives in the firm.
6. Support communication between technical and commercial functions.
The process is based around four key stages, which take the form of facilitated workshops (see
Fig. 3), together with planning, co-ordination and implementation activities. The process is
flexible in terms of time, resources and focus, and workshops can be extended or compressed
depending on available information and the unit of analysis. Typically the process is initially
applied in a series of four half-day workshops. The main elements of the process are summarised
C = Co-ordination
Workshop 2 - Product
C Product feature concepts
Impact ranking of features
Planning Workshop 1 - Market Workshop 4 - TRM Implementation
Company requirements C Performance dimensions Map product features C Knowledge gaps
Process planning Business / Market drivers Map technology response Implementation plan
Workshop 3 - Technology
Technology solutions C
Impact ranking of solutions
Fig. 3 - TRM start-up process
Several factors should be considered prior to initiation of the TRM start-up process workshops,
• Identification of appropriate participants.
• Required resources and scheduling of workshops.
• Identification of available information.
• Definition of the unit of analysis.
• Clear articulation of company objectives for the process.
Workshop participants should include both technical and commercial functions (e.g. research,
development, manufacturing, marketing, finance). Continuity of participation is desirable, at
least for a core set of participants. Establishing the objectives for the process is important, as a
means for judging success, together with ensuring that the focus of the process is appropriate.
Co-ordination is a key element of the TRM start-up process, with the need to ensure that the
process is continually aligned with company needs (co-ordination points are included between
each step - see Fig. 3), as the results from each workshop cannot always be predicted in advance.
Reflection and discussion of workshop outputs is sensible prior to starting the next workshop.
For this purpose, the setting up of a 'steering group' is recommended to co-ordinate the process.
Workshop 1: Market
This workshop aims to establish a set of prioritised market and business drivers for the future,
reflecting external and internal factors. The 'performance dimensions' which drive product
development within the business are considered first (e.g. speed, weight, reliability, aesthetics).
Then market and business drivers are identified - a 'level up' from the performance dimensions
(i.e. customer and business motivation), grouped and prioritised.
Fig. 4 - The 'performance envelope' is dictated by a trade-off between
market pull (requirements) and technology push (capabilities)
Starting with performance dimensions is helpful, as these relate directly to the product, and can
usually be readily identified. Also, product performance is a fundamental factor that can be used
to link the market drivers to technological capability - see Fig. 4.
Workshop 2: Product
This workshop aims to establish a set of 'product feature concepts' which could satisfy the drivers
identified in Workshop 1 - a 'level down' from the performance dimensions. The market /
business drivers and product feature concepts together define a simple grid which can be used to
investigate the relationship between features and drivers (see Fig. 5). The product feature
concepts are grouped and their impact ranked for each market and business driver, and
alternative product strategies considered (in response to combinations of market and business
Business / Market drivers
Fig. 5 - Analysis grids
Workshop 3: Technology
This workshop aims to identify possible technological solutions that could deliver the desired
product features. These solutions are grouped into technical areas (or 'routes'), which taken with
the product features defined in Workshop 2, define a second analysis grid (see Fig. 5). This links
directly to the market-product grid described in Section 2.5 (the use of inter-linking grids is
based on concepts proposed by de Wet, 1996). The impact of the technology areas on the desired
product features is then ranked. The two analysis grids link together, and provide a means of
relating the impact of technology to product features and market / business drivers, connecting
the various levels of the roadmap.
Workshop 4: Roadmapping
Workshops 1-3 enable a simple framework for linking the three levels of the roadmap to be
developed, together with a 'language' for supporting the construction of the roadmap (i.e. the
categories that define the analysis grids - see Fig. 5). Attempting to develop a roadmap without
the structure that is provided by the analysis grids is difficult. Workshop 4 draws the marketing
and technology strands together to produce the first roadmap. The format of the TRM is defined,
in terms of time scales, levels, and product strategy (e.g. platforms). Key milestones are
identified, product evolution plotted, and technological programmes identified, together with
linkages between the roadmap levels, bearing in mind the prioritised market drivers, high impact
product features, and most attractive technological solutions.
Implementation issues are considered at the end of the TRM start-up process, in terms of
identifying gaps in market, product and technology knowledge, together with assessing how best
to implement a complete roadmapping process in the company. The process should be
appropriate to the particular company context, in terms of needs and circumstances. Success
factors and barriers to success are considered, and 'next steps' identified.
5. Application results
To assess the effectiveness of each application and in order to improve the process, the success
of the process is reviewed at the end of Workshop 4 and after six months.
The review after Workshop 4 incorporates participant and facilitator views by means of
questionnaires, which assess process effectiveness in terms of three key parameters:
• Usefulness: how well did the application meet the stated objectives?
• Functionality: how well did the application meet the generic aims of the TRM start-up
• Usability: how simple was the process to follow, how well was the process facilitated, and
was the mix of workshop participants appropriate?
These parameters are scored (on a scale of 1-5), based on a number of questions - see Table 2 for
aggregate results. Note, the first two applications were not scored, as they were exploratory in
Table 2 - TRM start-up process assessment
# Usefulness Functionality Usability Selected comments
3 3.8 3.9 4.2 • Helped to effectively communicate the various ' visions' of the industry
from management, marketing and technology groups.
• Worked well as an introduction to the process, but more focused company-
wide inputs will be needed to implement the approach.
• The process reduced the complexity into simple, less complex steps.
• Workshops 1, 2 & 3 were effective; workshop 4 lost focus and we agreed a
• Insufficient time to discuss important issues.
4 3.4 3.1 2.9 • The process focused on the challenges ahead of us.
• We were not sufficiently prepared.
• Insufficient time to discuss important issues.
• Much of the discussion was useful, despite appearing to be confused.
• Insufficient sales / marketing input.
• The process helps to clarify 'gaps' in our product range and knowledge.
In each company a plan was devised to take the TRM process forward, in the context of
company requirements and the strategic planning processes within the business. Evidence of
medium to long term change in the organisation will be sought as part of an overall assessment
of the success of the TRM start-up application. This will be assessed by interview after six
The comments and scores are reviewed after each application. It can be seen that application #3
was more successful on all scores than application #4, and this is attributed to the unit of analysis
being more clearly defined. In application #3, where the business units were structured around
specific product types, each serving clearly identified market areas, the focus for the TRM start-
up process related directly to each business unit and the related product. In application #4, the
selected product / market area was not sufficiently focused, which resulted in some confusion
during workshop 4 and less satisfactory outputs. This is a key learning point for the process and
will be included in the facilitation guidance. Other areas for process refinement include the
grouping of brainstormed options and the ranking/prioritisation of product and technology
6. Summary and conclusions
Technology roadmapping is a technique that enables technology investment to be linked to
future product development and market requirements. There are examples of how this approach
has been used successfully in industry, although the initial implementation and ongoing
application of the method represents a challenge.
The paper describes a process to support the rapid start-up of technology roadmapping in firms.
The approach has been developed by four applications within three companies, using a
‘procedural action research' methodology. Each application of the method provides an
opportunity for improving and refining the process, with the aim of capturing the experience
gained in the form of a practical 'how-to' workbook. In terms of process improvement during the
development applications, the key issues with roadmapping have related to the importance of
clearly defining the unit of analysis and the need more detailed facilitation guidance. This work
can now proceed to the testing and validating stages. Testing within a wider range of companies
will take place over the next year to give a contingent framework.
Working with the TRM technique is illuminating the domain of technology planning. Due to the
structural similarity of the proposed technology planning framework and the technology
roadmap, a dynamic method of reflecting upon the framework is provided. Further work planned
includes ongoing validation against existing models of technology strategy and investigating and
documenting mechanisms for knowledge flow.
• Andreasen, M.M. and Hein, L. (1987), Integrated product development, Springer-Verlag /
IFS Ltd. (UK).
• Barker, D. and Smith, D.J.H. (1995), 'Technology foresight using roadmaps', Long Range
Planning, 28(2), pp. 21-28.
• Chai, K.H., Shi, Y.J. and Gregory, M.J. (1999), 'Bridging islands of knowledge: a framework
of knowledge sharing in international manufacturing networks', 6th European Operations
Management Annual Conference, Venice, 7-8th June.
• Cooper, R.G., Edgett, S.J. and Kleinschmidt, E.J. (1998), Portfolio management for new
products, Addison-Wesley, Reading, Massachusetts.
• de Wet, G. (1996), Corporate strategy and technology management: creating the interface,
Proc. 5th Int. Conf. in Mng. of Tech., Miami, Jan/Feb 1996, pp. 510-518.
• EIRMA (1997), 'Technology roadmapping: delivering business vision', European Industrial
Research Association, Paris.
• Floyd, C. (1997), Managing technology for corporate success, Gower, Aldershot.
• Grant, R.M. (1991), 'The resourced-based theory of competitive advantage: implications for
strategy formulation', California Management Review, Spring, pp. 114-135.
• Gregory, M.J. (1995), Technology management: a process approach, Proc. Instn. Mech.
Engrs., 209, pp. 347-356.
• Groenveld, P. (1997), 'Roadmapping integrates business and technology', Research-
Technology Management, 40(5), pp. 48-55.
• Hamel, G. and Prahalad, C.K. (1994), Competing for the future, Harvard Business School
• Hartmann, M.H. (1999), Theory and practice of technological corporate assessment, Int. J.
Technology Management, 17(4), pp. 504-521.
• Kline, S.J.(1991), Styles of Innovation and Their Cultural Basis, Chemtech, Vol.21, No.8,
• Martinich, J.S. (1997), Production and operations management - an applied modern
approach, John Wiley & Sons, New York, pp. 228-231.
• Maslen, R. and Lewis, M.A. (1994), 'Procedural action research', Proceedings of the British
Academy of Management Conference, Lancaster University, UK, September 1994.
• Matthews, W.H. (1992), 'Conceptual framework for integrating technology into business
strategy', Int. J. of Vehicle Design, 13(5/6), pp. 524-532.
• Metz, P.D. (1996), 'Integrating technology planning with business planning', Research-
Technology Management, 39(3), pp. 19-22.
• Mintzberg, H. (1994), The rise and fall of strategic planning, The Free Press, New York.
• Nonaka, I. (1991), 'The knowledge-creating company', Harvard Business Review,
November-December, pp. 96-104.
• Platts, K.W. (1993), 'A process approach to researching manufacturing strategy', Int. J.
Operations & Production Management, 13(8), pp. 4-17.
• Porter, M. (1985), Competitive advantage - creating and sustaining superior performance,
The Free Press.
• Steele, L.W., 1989, Managing technology - the strategic view, McGraw-Hill, New York.
• Strauss, J., Radnor, M. and Peterson, J. (1998), ‘Plotting and navigating a non-linear
roadmap: knowledge-based roadmapping for emerging and dynamic environments’, Given at
East Asian Conference on Knowledge Creation Management in Singapore, March 1998, for
The Asian-Pacific Journal of Management.
• Teece, D.J., Pisano, G. and Shuen, A. (1997), 'Dynamic capabilities and strategic
management', Strategic Management Journal, 18 (7), pp. 509-533.
• Twiss, B. (1986), Managing Technological Innovation, 3rd ed. Pitman Publishing.
• Whipp, R., 1991, 'Managing technological changes: opportunities and pitfalls', Int. J. of
Vehicle Design, 12 (5/6), pp. 469-477.
• Willyard, C.H. and McClees, C.W. (1987), 'Motorola's technology roadmap process',
Research Management, Sept.-Oct., pp. 13-19.
- 10 -
Dr. Rob Phaal joined the Centre for Technology Management at Cambridge University in 1997,
and is currently engaged in a research programme to investigate strategic technology
management issues in manufacturing organisations. The particular focus of the research project
is how to link technology resources to company objectives, in order to develop a set of practical
and well-founded tools to support technology strategy and planning initiatives in the firm. Rob
has a background in mechanical engineering, consulting and contract research, having previously
worked for The Welding Institute for six years.
Clare Farrukh joined Cambridge University in 1995 as a researcher in the area of technology
management, following six years as a process engineer with Ciba-Geigy. The particular focus of
her current research is linking technology resources to company objectives and she is actively
involved in co-ordinating the EPSRC Technology Management Network.
David Probert pursued an industrial career with Marks and Spencer and Philips for 18 years
before returning to Cambridge in 1991. His experience covers a wide range of industrial
engineering and management disciplines in the UK and overseas. Now a lecturer in the
Manufacturing and Management Division of Cambridge University Engineering Department,
David's research interests include technology management and make versus buy decisions.
- 11 -