Roadmapping Your Company’s Success

"The world is full of opposites. In contrast to the eighteen months of rough sailing, the next eighteen months will offer a market platform for a select few interconnect companies to pull ahead of the pack. By using the road mapping process, these companies will link their products and investment strategies to capture real world technologies such as digital broadband, RF/microwave or embedded passives in a cost-effective manner. At the same time, these companies will reduce their risks by minimizing the blind spots in the supply chain, establishing strong OEM links on the procurement side that provide product visibility through the EMS and contract manufacturing cycle."
Bob Forcier, President and CEO of OEM Roadmaps, LLC

Recently, Bob Forcier, President and CEO of OEM Roadmaps, LLC, a start-up venture that offers technology forecasting in the electronics, biotechnology, defense, power generation, and communications markets, wrote an article about how technology companies could avert repeating the inventory glut or a market slowdown. What was refreshing about his article is not that he wrote about road mapping, the tech sector is easily overrun with buzz words, but rather his clear and simple review of recent events in the technology sector and common sense suggestions that are involved in this thing called "road mapping."

Since March this year, the Puerto Rico Industrial Development Company has been in the midst of developing their strategic plan for development of the Communications and Information Technology Sector. The effort was titled the C&IT Road map. This effort has focused on the viable opportunities for rapid development and the steps needed to promote this sector’s steady growth. As we embark in the implementation of this new plan, it is poignant that we reflect on what a successful road mapping exercise requires.

Road Maps Explained (from Mr. Forcier’s Article in Business News Publishing)

Road mapping is about making links. In a way, road mapping links are similar to how the World Wide Web works. As a road map is constructed, each data point or product launch is tied to more than one individual or data source. A good road map is collaborative, documenting where the information comes from, its timeliness, the responsible party, and so forth.
Links allow a company to tap into information vital to business planning through stronger relationships with customers or suppliers. The more links, the more powerful the road mapping process. This is especially important in the interconnect industry because of the lack of vertical integration. Visibility in the supply chain is difficult; clearly a reason for the blind spot that led to the current downturn. It is essential, then, to establish strong links at the OEM level. For example, knowing Cisco’s timing on its next optical router will give the PCB supplier a definite advantage. The PCB manufacturer, on the other hand, must establish strong links at the raw material level, such as knowing about a new glass fiber that cuts drill wear by 40 percent.
Complicating the equation, a number of OEMs are forming collaboration teams to deal with the global logistics of a world economy. The migration to Asia for cost-effective solutions is one driver, but there is a consensus among the OEMs that global risk can be minimized in a number of markets by collaboration… Companies and organizations believe correctly that by finding partners (not necessarily acquisitions), they can benefit from marketing information to make better decision for investments. These partner relationships will not be exclusive to OEMs, but will also be adopted by EMS providers, contract manufacturers and printed circuit makers next year. The reason is simple: no one wants blind spots.
Road maps, in essence, allow for visibility and promote technical marketing. It also enhances lateral communication between departments, often times an information bottleneck: R&D, Product Directors, Manufacturing, Sales, Marketing, Finance. All of these departments must be on the same page to function properly

The Road Map Mindset

"Collaboration", "links", these key elements to successful road maps and subsequently to successful investments in technology are all contingent upon communication and sharing of information. Though Forcier does not go so far as to say this, effective implementation of road maps requires divesting from the closed source mentality, "I’ve got a secret and my secret is my key to success". So long as we are fearful of sharing our vision and our needs with others in the local technology sector the road map initiative is destined to fail. If Puerto Rico’s technology sector wants to create an environment that promotes growth and competitiveness, it begins by changing the way we communicate. Cryptic marketing speak that ends up saying "everything is ok, I need nothing, we are hot" will only delay or impede the development of meaningful links.

We will be stuck in the well known rut of software developers creating software for an OS for which they only see part of the picture only to find out once in the market that there are bugs and conflicts here and there. In the long run, their market growth suffers. The final nail comes when the entity you are creating products for ends up creating their own version of the product. No wonder collaboration and openness are hard to swallow for many who have lived this. Nonetheless, this example shows that feeding misinformation does not lead to sector growth, it leads to distrust and secrets between businesses that leads once again down the path to inventory gluts and damaging surplus.

For those who have been stung before, much wisdom can be gleaned Forcier’s article. Collaboration and partnerships are already happening on a global scale, and for those of us working to promote technology development in Puerto Rico, a new mindset of openness is required. Can openness and collaboration fit into a capitalist economy and lead to corporate success? Initially, skepticism hindered Open Source and Linux, but today we see more and more companies adopting Open Source as the model upon which to build their future. Product development in the open source community presents dramatic economies. Products are developed in 6 months rather than 18. The world is getting smaller and technology development is speeding up. Global giants influenced by Open Source, like IBM, are redefining themselves and focusing on strengths in favor of partnerships.

Thinking Outside the Box

Technology is not just a sector of an economy, technology is everywhere, in every sector. The C&IT Road map does well to focus on the needs of technology companies but the next few steps in it’s implementation need to foster links, open communication with other sectors of the economy: pharmaceutical industries, banking, plastic molding, government and health. Innovation requires a challenge. Forums for open communication between the technology sector and other sectors will provide insight into needs, global developments and competitive edge challenges. By incorporating other economic sectors into the folds of the C&IT Road map we increase the possibility of innovation with an immediate local impact. This will have a broader multi-sector impact and greater potential for growth in exports. Reflecting on the nature of road maps, the suggestion raised is not to approach implementation of the C&IT road map as an end unto itself but a means to a globally competitive, interconnected Puerto Rican economy.

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