The Trouble & Flows with Tech-Strategy: Converging Knowledge Through the Strategy Lifecycle

Tech strategy formulation and execution are a high risk activities.

It can feel like succeeding in the cutthroat digitally competitive marketplace is like attempting to:

  • hit a bullseye (“achieve product-market fit”).
  • on a moving target (“fast shifting digital personas”).
  • while standing on quicksand (“rapidly changing tech capabilities”).

An understanding and balanced hypothesis across each major lever is needed. This requires the convergence of multiple disconnected skillsets and specialties.

Bringing tech & non-tech teams together to create a detailed strategy is difficult. Hitting the right tone, level of detail and subject matter is a delicate balancing act. Most strategy sessions fall short by either diving into technospeak, or sticking to meaningless business platitudes.

Why do tech strategies usually fail to deliver value? An example of some common pitfalls that eventuate:

  • A general misunderstanding (built into a set of assumptions) on the details of a technology or engineering approach.
  • The tendency for “silver bullet thinking”: i.e. having expectation that purchasing a product or adopting a set of standards will directly correlate to competitive advantage.
  • Underinvesting by viewing tech strategy as a set of purchasing decisions rather than an in depth business transformation.

Now for the good news.

There are in depth resources available that really help bridge the gap between technology & business strategy. While there are many others that I didn’t have time to mention, the below have been invaluable to my experience in progressing effective strategy when collaborating with a combination of tech and non-tech audiences.

The below covers some guidance starting points for guidance across the strategic lifecycle:

Firstly, set the strategic direction with Wardley Maps.

The technique has shot to fame in recent years and is a fantastic framework that (amongst other benefits) frames a strategic context direction. It is only from a firm understanding the propositions, positioning and vision that can best guide how to structure a team. Join MapCamp and read the Medium posts if you want to gain a better understanding of this approach.

Become a customer identity and problem expert using Service Design Thinking.

Identifying customer (personas & micro-personas), identifying their Jobs to be Done and being an expert in customer Problems is the most critical part of providing valuable products/services. By understanding the customer and the challenge, the skillsets, size and relationships can be optimised to solve the customers problem within a given business model.

Define and test ideas using Strategyzer Value Proposition Design approach.

The Strategyzer team are well versed in corporate innovation. Like Eric Ries in his fantastic “The Startup Way”, Testing Business Ideas brings science to the innovation process. Designing experiments is a uniquely skilled team who are experts in spending the least to discover the the most data on the ability for an idea to thrive in the wild. Team sizes, skills, and activities change during various phases of the idea lifecycle.

I had the opportunity to attend the Value Proposition Design & Masterclass with the Strategyzer team & find this is a great way to compliment Wardley techniques. I would guess that understanding who your customers are and their problems is the most important step to identifying offerings and DNA as an organisation. Other approaches such as Jobs to Be Done, Service Design Thinking and Customer Journeys are all useful parts of the putting together this puzzle. In one sense, the aggregate of how an organisation serves customer problems is the organisational vision and strategy.

Optimise the approach & team structure to building the proposition components using Nick Tune’s merged team topology and Wardley Mapping approach.

I’m a big fan of Nick’s materials that covers topics that are useful to almost all complex enterprises I’ve come across: team structures, product strategies, domain modelling, investment decision-making. I had the opportunity in September to attend both his Event Storming and Strategic Wardley Mapping workshops. A great example of his work that provides clarity on team decision-making this fantastic diagram. A useful activity is Miro is to get a group together to shuffle the team characteristics such as size, interaction type and the strength each proposition differentiation in order to optimally achieve a strategic outcome.

Iterating towards success

Developing transparency and aligning teams can be an antidote to this”silver bullet thinking”. The techniques can provide a visualisation of the whole, bring out hidden elements and providing a view of complexity available for honest learnings and management. The intention is that, rather than viewing the adoption of tools, approaches, trends as the end state in themselves, the visual approaches cover the holistic pieces requiring consideration to meet the target state and the corresponding activities and culture.

Overall it helps enhances better techno-business decision making. Especially in the context of how to piece together the elements that are needed to achieve the business model & value proposition.

What are the useful approaches that are missing?

- Dan