Roadmapping offers a structured visual mapping method to support strategy, long-term planning, innovation, and foresight activities. The need for such a tool is still vital, but is it sufficiently adaptable to support geographically dispersed teams challenged by rapidly changing technologies and business environments?
There are few published case-studies for roadmapping implementation, so researchers from Cambridge University’s Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) working with Subsea 7, a leading marine engineering, construction and services company, have published a case-study outlining how the organisation has benefited from roadmapping and embedded it within the organisational processes.
Their paper ‘Sustaining Organizational Roadmapping Implementation––Lessons Learned from Subsea 7’ provides useful insights into how the company has implemented and developed roadmapping as a sustainable process.
This study can help companies seeking to change how they navigate innovation, especially if they want to transition from passively learning from past successes to proactively addressing customer needs.
Subsea 7 is a world leader in offshore engineering, construction, and installation services for the oil and gas industry. It has more than 10,000 employees and offices in 33 countries. In 2014, Subsea 7 recognised that it needed to improve the business performance and outcomes of its strategic technology development programs.
Historically, the company had developed new products and technologies in response to customer needs. Now it realised, that in an environment of rapid change that it needed to shorten development times and gain a deeper understanding of its customer requirements, in order to deliver solutions superior to those of its competitors.
In particular, the company needed to improve:
- Technical capability on system architecture and product design
- Execution capability within its project management organization
- Alignment and management with its supply chain strategy
Implementation of roadmapping
With the support of IfM, Subsea 7 introduced a structured roadmapping approach.
First it evaluated how it had selected, developed and managed its innovation portfolio over the previous two years. This process involved the company’s business and technology managers and helped them to understand for themselves the imperative to improve strategic alignment between technology development and market opportunities.
Then Subsea 7 conducted a pilot roadmapping workshop looking at four questions
- What do we really know?
- What don’t we know?
- Are data available?
- Are people sharing their data?
This exercise was successful in identifying the benefits of roadmapping for the company. In particular, it showed the potential as a tool to enable clients to engage and directly influence its technology agenda and planning in the early phases of field development.
However, the pilot also revealed the difficulties that might be involved if roadmapping required people to participate in face-to-face workshops. Subsea 7 operates a network model where specialists and experts work in virtual teams, with staff located all over the world.
Pilot workshop focussed on landscaping
Despite the significant logistical challenges, Subsea 7 pushed ahead with a landscaping exercise that over three months engaged teams from the US, Canada, UK, Norway, France, and Australia.
Previously, Subsea 7 had identified innovation opportunities based on signals or inputs from clients rather than being proactive.
The landscaping exercise enabled participants to realize how much autonomy they have to influence the solutions their clients selected and also that the drivers for innovation can come from both articulated and unarticulated client needs, as well as their individual insights.
This was a eureka moment for the organisation.
The leader of the landscaping exercise group presented the outcomes to Subsea 7’s senior management and collaboratively prioritized opportunities with expected outcomes and associated timelines.
Subsea 7 initiated 16 projects within five strategic programs and created teams to work on the prioritized opportunities linking with market trends and business drivers.
To read more about how Subsea 7 implemented roadmapping and investigated a virtual platform for supporting the process, the paper is available here.
Read the paper
Yuta Hirose, Robert Phaal, Clare Farrukh, Nathasit Gerdsri & Sungjoo Lee (2022): Sustaining Organizational Roadmapping Implementation––Lessons Learned from Subsea 7, Research-Technology Management, 65:3, 50-57, DOI: 10.1080/08956308.2022.2048555
Other case-studies of roadmapping implementation include:
- Amati, G., Motta, V., and Vecchiato, R. 2020. Roadmapping for innovation management: Evidence from Pirelli. R&D Management 48(4): 133–143. doi:10.1111/radm.12398 The Pirelli study focuses on increasing the effectiveness of bringing new products to market from basic research. (Amati, Motta, and Vecchiato 2020)
- Practical Roadmapping Implementation: What We Learned From QinetiQ Group – QinetiQ Group’s study emphasizes coping with uncertainties associated with developing roadmaps suited to its customer needs. (Hirose et al. 2021)