Navigating with a well-calibrated compass

Here at Vasco Consult, we like to travel. This is no surprise, given our company’s name. And now that our trunk includes a Portuguese branch, we are going back to our (tree) roots, by daring to take on new business ventures and to navigate new routes. If the name Vasco refers to the original voyage of discovery by sea, for us it has always been about finding the best way to help businesses and organisations. One way we do this is by drawing up an accurate road map that allows us to navigate better.

In almost every organisation, the road map is used to set down the strategic goals and the initiatives needed to achieve them in a one-year or multi-year plan. Whether it is the CTO who is presenting his innovation and technology plans for the next two years to his peers or the product manager who is sharing new features with the customer in a quarterly plan, he or she will most likely use a road map for this, as it is an important tool for visualising the vision and goals for the coming period. A precondition for this is that the strategy and vision are crystal clear, as if they are still poorly formulated, you must first make them transparently clear for your business or organisation. This is because once you know where you want to go, you will know which route map you need.

With your eyes on the horizon, you can draw up your initial plan. This road map is then fleshed out with lots of initiatives that are scheduled for implementation during that period. It means you are navigating with a well-calibrated compass whilst also keeping an eye on the interdependencies. But how do you make sure that your route map is so ‘seaworthy’ that you can use it to navigate accurately? Well, a road map becomes properly effective by setting priorities and making clear decisions. We will now give you three reasons why it is so important to set priorities.

Firstly, a road map helps you to decide what to spend the budget and resources on. On your road map, you need to know what the ‘must have’ investments are, as well as what the ‘nice to have’ initiatives are that can only be implemented if there are spare funds and spare capacity available. Secondly, a strict road map provides focus within the business, as employees know what they must work towards and when. And from an external point of view, the organisation’s customers know what to expect and when. Finally, a clearly-defined road map keeps the business teams motivated. If the road map is well-prioritised then this makes it a credible tool that will be supported by the employees. Now we have a better understanding of how important it is to set priorities, the question arises: how do you set the right priorities on a road map that is full of fantastical ideas and incredibly important items? Well, setting priorities and making tough decisions is probably the hardest part of drawing up - and keeping to - the road map. Example: business owners who feel that their idea is the most important project on the road map. These could be ideas whose contribution to the achievement of the road map’s goals is unclear. These are the challenges facing you as you attempt to boil things down to arrive at a workable road map. You can use the following checklist to help you do this:

- Does the initiative directly contribute to the realisation of the set goals? If not then ask yourself whether it really belongs on the road map.
- Is it clear how much this initiative contributes to the set goals and is this claim backed up anywhere? If you are only going by feelings or assumptions then you are asking for trouble. A well-considered business case should prevent these problems. And if you do this for all the initiatives then right away you will be comparing apples with apples and pears with pears.
- Who is the owner? Each initiative on your road map needs a sponsor who understands the importance of the initiative and who fights to get it realised.
- Is it a good fit with the road map? There may be a whole host of fantastic ideas but a road map only has a certain capacity and needs strict planning. So take a good look at the people and funds available. Adding something on the road map that isn’t right for it isn’t an option.

In this way - through a strict focus and prioritising - you will end up with a road map that is both feasible and credible. Does this mean the road map is now set in stone? No, this very likely won’t be the case, because new developments are occurring all the time. There are always new projects to initiate, which is why some adjustments will still be needed. Despite this, a road map that is well-formulated right from the start will keep you on the right track. Navigating with a well-calibrated compass allows you to discover the world. Or as a business or organisation, to simply do the things you are good at doing.

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