It can be an exciting time for a company when it’s about to embark on a new software project. That new tool might seem like the long-lost key to grabbing missed revenue opportunities, addressing productivity issues, or helping control costs. Regardless of the reason, this anticipation can motivate a team to get moving quickly. At Firefield, we are big fans of rapid iteration and agile methodologies. But we are also the first to warn that starting a company-changing technology project too fast can have dire consequences. More specifically, if a company hasn’t clearly defined its overall tech strategy first, their next software project is destined to fail.
What’s a Tech Strategy Anyway?
Simply put it’s a company’s plan for the relationship it wants with its technology. This post will focus on how this applies to software, but that could be only part of a bigger plan. Tech strategies can differ substantially from venture to venture, and rarely does one size fit all. For example, a brick-and-mortar company’s employees and customers may not be very comfortable with technology. In that case, one line in their tech strategy might read, “For our users, any software product must be dead simple to both understand and use.”
On the other hand, a tech startup might have different motivations. Their strategy might include, “Strive to create software that’s always ‘changing the game’. Our innovations should make it hard for others to compete with us.” While both these examples are ‘right’, they might be terribly wrong if applied to another company. In the end, a company’s tech strategy should articulate both their aspirational goals and practical constraints.
Why Does it Matter?
A tech strategy is crucial for software planning, development, and implementation because it serves as an ultimate point of reference. Every technical choice should tie directly back to it. Stakeholders should be constantly asking themselves, “Will this decision advance our overall technology goals?”. If the answer is “no”, then they should move on. But if the question can’t be answered at all, decision-makers will find it difficult to act.
More specifically, the lack of a clear technical strategy can result in one or more of the following 3 major impacts:
1) Everything Gets Slower
Analysis paralysis is a common symptom of a missing strategy. When a team has no signpost for guidance, it’s nearly impossible to choose a direction. The speed of decision making grinds to a crawl and sometimes stops completely.
2) Feedback Becomes Overwhelming
When a software product starts getting real world usage, feedback is inevitable. In some cases, it can be overwhelming. Prioritizing what should and should not be addressed (and in what order) is critical. Without an overarching plan, a team has no way of consistently addressing users’ requests.
3) You Risk Doing Less With More
Intuitive and streamlined software benefits everyone who uses it. However, building such a successful and uncluttered product is difficult. Without keeping a product’s goals top of mind, it’s likely that adding more functionality to the tool could quickly make it less useful.
In a future post I’ll dive deeper into a tutorial on how to develop a tech strategy. But for now remember that in order to be successful, your next software project should be built to address a cohesive technology goal, and not a wish list of features and functions.