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

Woman looking at map
By Nick on Unsplash

A solid technology strategy is a requirement for building a high-performing engineering organisation that consistently hits business goals. To better understand the importance of technology strategy, we can look at what happens to teams that don't have one.

It is pretty standard for poor engineering leaders not to have a technology strategy written down and shared with the entire organisation.

  • Engineering leaders don't need to think about strategy, and they can come up with a different one every day.
  • Because there is no single source of truth for the strategy, it is harder to hold the leader accountable.
  • The leader needs to join every single conversation. The lack of clarity becomes a massive blocker. Two things can happen: either the leader burns out or the team grinds to a halt. In any case, the leader will not be able to focus on the things only they can do.
  • Decisions based on an unclear or inexistent strategy will be inconsistent and push teams in different directions.

I have been guilty of this in the past. Unfortunately, it seems to be more common than you'd think for companies not to have clear and easily reference-able technology strategies.

Imagine a team that needs to add rich text editing to their web application. An engineer goes ahead and researches what the potential alternatives are. Their work output should be a walkthrough of their findings plus a recommendation. The team will review async and then get together to reach a final decision. The research becomes significantly more chaotic and stressful without a solid technology strategy.

  • What should the criteria even be?
  • Are we okay with paying for a solution? Where do we stand on build vs buy?
  • Do we care more about customisation or speed of integration?
  • Do we prioritise stability over feature-set?
  • How do we feel about depending on new open-source software? Will we become maintainers?

How can they possibly make a sane recommendation that is consistent with the direction the team is moving in?

In contrast, what does it feel like when you set a clear and public technology strategy?

  • All of a sudden, you have more time on your calendar. No need to be pulled into every technical conversation. You are scaling yourself as a leader!
  • Individuals in your team are empowered to make decisions. As a result, the level of buy-in increases dramatically.
  • Engagement goes up because individuals encounter many more growth opportunities. Bad attrition goes down!
  • In organisations with multiple teams, everyone starts rowing in the same direction. Impact of initiatives compounds.

A team that feels like the above sounds like a pretty good place to be in, doesn't it? Of course, a solid technology strategy is not a sufficient condition to create such an environment. You need a culture of inclusion, trust and a few other ingredients. The plan is not enough, but it certainly is necessary.

Perhaps in the future, I may write about how to construct a solid technology strategy and communicate it with the rest of the organisation.