Notes towards the creation of a Programme Road Map

Prof. Austin Tate
Artificial Intelligence Applications Institute
University of Edinburgh
5 May 1992 - Revised 16 Nov 1993


A Programme Road Map provides a coordinated picture of the various parts of an overall development programme such that the diverse and dispersed efforts can be seen as part of the whole and can be justified as such. Monitoring of progress against the overall objectives is possible.

The Road Map provides:

  1. a global timetable of expected capabilities and results in terms of the overall aims and benefits, the technology capabilities and the support requirements. Strategic objectives can be linked to tactical objectives and operational tasks.
  2. a specification of the relationship between individual efforts in the overall programme and the roles that each effort is expected to have in achieving the overall aims.
  3. a framework for coordinating the activity within the programme, allowing the measurement of overall progress.
The Road Map allows:
  1. individual projects to be defined and justified in terms of their contribution to the overall aims.
  2. effective communication of the work and progress on the programme to the participants and observers.
  3. management aids for those involved in carrying out the programme and measuring its progress.
  4. more effective communication between users, scientists, technicians, managers and directors involved in the various aspects of the programme.
  5. sensible decisions to be taken on the opportunities for further exploiting the results of the programme.
  6. the identification of gaps that need to be filled.
Suitable displays and overlays are designed to support individual requirements.

The Road Map is a living document regularly updated at Programme Reviews which serves as a framework for the monitoring of the programme. The document reflects the current state of the interrelationships between work in progress and proposed for the future and the overall milestones and aims of the programme.

Management of the Road Map

The Road Map is owned by the overall Programme Manager and may be changed by the Programme Review Board. Individual project relationships within the programme may be changed via this route.

This section should be developed further to ensure it is appropriate to the specific programme.

Road Map Facets, Threads and Ties

The Road Map is split into a number of Facets which collect together major types of work within the programme. Facets appear as vertical bands in the road map itself. The particular facets required on a road map will depend on the purpose to which it will be put. However, as an aid, a technology road map (small diagram 6K, larger easier to read diagram 30K) in use in AIAI has the following facets and Sub-facets.

Facet                                Sub-facets
Application Areas                    Specific application sectors
Core Themes
Lead Demonstrators
Technology Integration Experiments
Enabling R&D                         Concepts
Skill Development                    Methods
Student Work

Within each facet there could be a number of Threads which are used to relate programme elements together in a communicable way. Threads may carry on for the whole programme duration if they are sufficiently important and it is suggested that strong threads are identified which do carry on in this way. However, threads could also be for a more limited duration during a specific phase of the programme. Threads can be a good mechanism to keep particular technical or organisational themes running through the programme. Threads appear as horizontal lines within a facet and will have annotations at the appropriate date for major programme elements that relate to the thread. Sub-threads can be shown on the road map to indicate multiple concurrent activities in a thread. They will normally have a limited time duration. They are shown on the road map as horizontal lines spurred off the relevant thread line. Ties are used to show major connections between programme elements. They are shown on the road map as vertical or rightwards pointing diagonal lines showing the supporting relationship between the elements. Ties are one major way in which justifications, proposals and business cases for lower level activities can be better presented in trems of higher level objectives.

Form and Level of Presentation of the Road Map

The road map is not an alternative to individual project plans and more detailed management aids to control the programme. It is a high level overall coordination and communication aid. As such, do not expect to show all relevant ties, and be prepared to make special versions of the programme road map for specific audiences or showing relevant facets, threads, sub-threads and ties for a specific purpose.

Difference between Application Insertion Projects and Lead Application Systems

The road map is based on the idea that a lead application is selected for business justified reasons, but that the site and application is also chosen to allow for then objectives of the programme to be carried out. This will almost certainly mean that additional effort to ensure effective technology transfer to later replications will be built into the budget, and that the site is willing to be a guinea pig. There is an assumption that the first lead application (and perhaps even the second, where the preferred technology transfer method related to the application type may still be under development or trial) will differ from the regular rolling out of the application or even making it more robust and enhancing the system for its proper introduction at the first site. It is at the Application Insertion Project stage that normal business cost justifications must be made before going ahead. Other factors are taken into account in choosing a lead site application. However, it is a bonus if even the first lead site is itself cost-justifiable on business grounds, and the inevitable additional risk for the lead site application is acceptable. Experience suggests that the successful identification of lead applications with appropriate time scales could be a key factor in outlining a good programme. The road map can then be built by carefully relating these lead applications upwards to business objectives and strategy, and downwards to technical capabilities.

Initial Draft of Road Map

A first version of the Road Map for a programme is an initial attempt to set up a number of Facets which will be helpful for the programme. Within each facet there could be a number of Threads which are used to relate programme elements together in a communicable way. To make a start, I have suggested that these facets (numbered items) and threads (sub-items) be:
  1. strategic programme objectives
  2. technology transfer
  3. lead application prototypes/trials
  4. demonstrations and milestone experiments
  5. technology acquisition or development
  6. support tools provision
  7. new technology reviews

Road Map Overlays

Overlays of various kinds can be designed to communicate certain aspects of the programme or to help justify proposed work plans, etc. One particularly useful type of display relates a number of Road Map components (e.g., technology related items) to the overall Road Map theme or lead application they support. ``Cityscape'' diagrams to show the ties between items can be a useful overlap. The boxes on a cityscape have three sides which can be coloured to some proportion or in certain ways to communicate aspects like technical risk, percentage use of technology available, etc.

Multiple Road Maps

There may be a use for a small number of different road maps which have some common structure. In particular a facet or set of threads on one overall road map (say for the organisation as a whole) may be copied down into special road maps (say for divison plans), and some threads in facets in more detailed plans may appear in the upper level. The need to perhaps have marketing related road maps tied to technology road maps is another possible need.

Notes Added in 2002

In addition see the "4 influences" diagram which describes what a well justified node on a roadmap should be related to.

See a paper from the Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Practical Aspects of Knowledge Management (PAKM98) Basel, Switzerland, 29-30 Oct. 1998, (U. Reimer, ed.) on Knowledge Asset Roadmaps by Ann Macintosh, Ian Filby and Austin Tate (in PDF format). Also see a PowerPoint briefing (120KB) from January 2002 to a project meeting of the UK Advanced Knowledge Technologies describing roadmaps.