Using Tech Trees as Product Roadmaps

I’m not much of a gamer these days although I owe a lot of my current computer networking knowledge to having to figure out how to get LAN-based games working when I was younger.

This holiday season I decided to take a few days off between Christmas and New Year and to fill in my time I decided to download and run a massively multi-player online game called “EVE”. It is a space genre game similar to Elite (except that it is multi-player).

The premise of most of these kinds games is pretty simple, you acquire resources and gather experience points to progress through a tree of capabilities. The following picture is a skills map from EVE that I found on the Internet.

skillchart 

That is a pretty impressive diagram but possibly a little bit too much to digest in one sitting. Applied to a commercial scenario, a tech tree might look something like the diagram I added to my post Enterprise Technology & Strategy Games that I wrote a while ago.

What is missing from that diagram is really a sense of time and how each one of the items in the tech tree relates to the overall business strategy. This is really where the idea of “product roadmaps” come in.

A product roadmap is really a diagram with a number of data points laid out over time, the following site has a few examples of different ways you could express a product roadmap:

If I distilled what each product roadmap needs it is:

  1. Product progressions dimension (v1, v2, etc).
  2. Time dimension (what span of time is this going to happen over).
  3. Informational dimensions (what else is happening over time, what is the correlation?).

What I thought it might be interesting to do is overlay both of these concepts, product roadmaps and tech trees to see if more information can be packed into one diagram. Let’s take the example from my earlier post.

TechTree

In this diagram you can see how some of the platform changes and general advancements contribute to the progression of the product. Each advancement comes about because of a specific business context which is anticipated at that time.

One really important thing to note is that as a plan for the future, a product roadmap needs to be flexible enough to change should the business context change.

Summary

I think that Technology Trees and Product Roadmaps are important tools and I think when combined together with anticipated business context that they could be quite a powerful presentation tool.

This is applicable to my role right now because as I work with both internal and external customers we need to be able to understand the underlying business drivers then determine what the key pieces of technology that need to be delivered to achieve that. The bundling of technologies into products really represents logical groupings of technologies that can be delivered together and be useful.

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