Content is the essence of roadmapping. But when it comes to visualisation, priorities are widespread and often, roadmaps end up with the style of technology-oriented drawings. Sven Schimpf and Claus Lang-Koetz observe that it might be worth going the extra mile for impressive, professional visuals that attract interest in their own right.
Without excellent content, roadmaps, like an outdated streetmap, might lose their right to existence, create confusion or even mislead management to take wrong decisions. Nobody will argue against the maximisation of information quality in roadmaps as one of the key objectives. But something often ignored in roadmapping is the impact of strong visuals.
We’ve all judged a book by its cover at some point. People who are well-dressed seem to be competent. Innovative buildings seem to host innovative activities. The halo effect describes the cognitive bias that is created by transferring the appreciation of one characteristic to other characteristics of a person or object. Without assessing this as positive or negative, it’s worth considering just how the effect might apply to the way in which roadmapping content is presented.
Illustrating the point
The example of the development of this following technology roadmap, created for the lead markets ‘water’, ‘circular economy’ and ‘air’, and produced as part of a collaboration between the State Agency Umwelttechnik BW (UTBW) and two research organisations, quite literally illustrates the point.
The objective of the roadmap was to provide a secure base for strategic planning and to provide guidance to small and medium-sized companies, R&D institutions and policy-makers in the field of environmental technology. To ensure content quality, it was developed using information from three workshops involving 20 experts, and from conducting 17 expert interviews, identifying developments in technologies and markets within the next 15 years. Based on the information collected, trends were extracted, analysed and described in a one-page trend-factsheet.
The overall visualisation for the roadmap started in the first phases of the project, in alignment with the general objectives and the target groups. In addition to the core team (Umwelttechnik BW, Fraunhofer IAO and HS Pforzheim), a graphic designer was involved early in the process to take responsibility for the ‘look’ of the final roadmap and to ensure its consistency with the CI of Umwelttechnik BW.
Challenges and results
The key challenge was to create a roadmap showing the most relevant future developments in terms of market and technology, and to produce something that created value not only for one specific company, but for a sector. Different visualisation concepts were drafted. With the combined information from the trend factsheets, the system analysis, and the visualisation options, the designer worked with a radar metaphor, showing the time horizon through the proximity to the centre of the circle and integrating other aspects such as the trend relevance and the trend type.
In practice, the effect of the visualisation was impressive. Inside of Umwelttechnik BW it was quickly accepted as guidance for strategic orientation. While presenting the roadmap at conferences and fairs, people were attracted by the design and wanted to know more about it – which was a key point for the usage of the roadmap in both small and medium sized companies and on a policy level.
A lesson learned from this practical example would be that an add-on investment for an engaging and memorable visualisation is very much worth the money – as is contracting the support of a professional graphics designer. This can also complement the visualisations of dedicated roadmapping software – and works the halo effect to get your roadmap content even more attention.
Post by: Dr. Sven Schimpf, Fraunhofer Group for Innovation Research, [email protected]
Prof. Claus Lang-Koetz, INEC Hochschule Pforzheim, [email protected],
For more detailed information on the methodology to develop the environmental technology roadmap, read this article: http://publica.fraunhofer.de/dokumente/N-469983.html