Roadmapping is a tool we often use in our Technology Management Consulting team. We help our clients bring together commercial and strategic perspectives with those of technology and R&D to examine what products or experiences could be launched to achieve business objectives. For us this often means working at the 3-5 year timescale asking what emerging and evolving technology could influence current and future product development. However, one speaker at a roadmapping conference I attended talked about the challenges of much longer scale roadmaps, those that get projects into space.
This was brought home to me this week when we heard the good news that the New Horizons mission had been successful, the probe is intact and outbound. We wait excitedly to see more data from this far flung ‘dwarf planet’. The project team has not only been waiting since the probe launch in 2006 but since the decisions on technology prioritisation and strategic investment and the proposal in 2001. NASA’s 20 year roadmaps look at everything from communications and tracking through to life support and nanotechnology.
Planning to integrate the latest technology in your next product can be challenging enough for ‘normal’ innovation projects. The probe got there safely and is delivering what was asked of it, but there will always be the question that if they’d waited another year could they have used higher spec imaging and processing technology? Undoubtedly yes, but we’d still be waiting. Deciding on the optimum timing to commit to incorporating a candidate technology in your next launch can be tricky, let alone when the world is watching years on. Sometimes it is good to just get out there and be a pioneer and I wish the probe well as it continues to explore the icy reaches of our solar system.