4 steps to create a solid technology strategy

Technology strategy series:

  1. The importance of solid technology strategy and principles
  2. 4 steps to create a solid technology strategy
  3. The Plot technology strategy

Man holding compass
By Anastasia Petrova on Unsplash

As an Engineering leader, you want to create a solid technology strategy to provide the context your team needs to make excellent decisions. But how should you go about it?

📚 1. Gather context

Most of the difficulty resides in identifying and reflecting on the context of the business and your team. Once you do that, you will realise that actually writing a strategy doc is the easy part.

Business goals and strategy

Your technology strategy must serve the wider business goals and not the other way around. Take a look at what your organisation needs to achieve next quarter or year. Perhaps you are in the middle of a B2B to B2C transition, or everyone is getting ready to launch in the US.

Of course, if this is not clear, you have much bigger problems 🙃.

Current team

Everyone knows what needs to be achieved, now it’s time to take a look at whether you have the right team to do it.

Current technology and processes

It is really important you have a good grasp of how your engineering team operates. What is working? Where is the friction?

Perhaps communication is great, folks pair regularly and there rarely is any misalignment on requirements after a refinement session. It may be that the team finds the current release process frustrating or the current on-call rotation quite stressful.

Take your time really understanding what makes the team tick as your strategy will be highly dependent on it. A good tool to get data across teams is running quarterly team health surveys.

Company values and operating principles

Think about the values in your organisation and how the company operates. Ideally, you’d want a strategy that reflects that.

Establish the horizon

How far into the future should you look when creating your strategy? It depends! If you choose too short a timeframe, your strategy will change constantly and the team will lack continuity. In turn, looking too far into the future may render the strategy irrelevant fairly quickly.

For an early stage startup, you may want to look at a horizon of up to a year while later stage organisations may work better with plans north of a year. Is the company about to go through a major event such as a merger or a new round of investment that may alter goals significantly? You may want to take this into account as well.

✍️ 2. Write a draft

Get started writing an initial draft. I recommend a proper document instead of a slide deck, so that you can convey nuances more clearly.

When talking about architecture, it is useful to include diagrams of current vs future state. Avoid being too prescriptive, you are trying to provide context so that your team can make decisions. You are not making every decision by yourself.

In terms of document structure, I find it useful to take the reader through the thought process that led you to the strategy itself.

♻️ 3. Get feedback & iterate

Share the document with the folks you want feedback from. Typically, this will be your manager, the rest of the leadership team and some individuals in Engineering. Google docs works best because everyone can give feedback async.

Feedback will help you clarify confusing elements and cover areas you omitted. It will also surface misalignment people had regarding goals, context or general direction of travel. Better to find these out early!

One important thing to remember is that your strategy will never be perfect. It’s better to ship it with confidence and be completely transparent about the fact that it is your current best guess and that you will all improve it together over time.

💬 4. Communicate it

Your strategy will be of no use if nobody knows about it or is ignored. You have to communicate it effectively. Here are a few tips.

🙌 Thanks for reading. Hopefully, these 4 steps have demystified the process of building a technology strategy. Would love to hear your thoughts on the article or if you have a different process.

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