At the end of the day, technology is a means to an end. The goal is to deliver value to customers. The tech should be subservient to this goal. And it should be invisible. Too many organisations let tech choices drive a solution when it ought to be the other way around.
Forgetting the customer comes at a cost
Technology departments spend years – and millions – on strategic shared solutions for infrastructure, deployment and monitoring tools. These efforts are so complex they often never deliver and product delivery teams are left with perpetually tactical solutions which barely work, slow down product delivery, and cause outages. To make matters worse, technology initiatives are run as projects and often completely ignore even internal customers, let alone the end customers, treating them as subjects of governance.
Make it about products, not projects
Instead of being project focussed and building from the back to the front, we should be product focussed and build from the front to the back. Projects start and end, then the money goes somewhere else, but products live on. When it’s all about the product and we work backwards from a true understanding of customers’ needs. With this way of working, we only build what we need to support those needs, keeping things as simple and agile as possible.
To win at the product-first approach, we have to keep up to date with the technology choices available to us. We have a problem to solve and we want the widest choice we can get, so we can select the most appropriate tech to serve us. This means understanding and navigating the open source revolution that continues to change our world. It means trying out new tech, new ideas, and new patterns, and being bold. It’s ok to fail early, cheaply, and to abandon experiments that aren’t going to work. That’s where the learning happens.
Like taking a thousand photos in the hope of getting one good one, innovation is born from experiments bravely conducted by autonomous teams with a deep sense of where they’re going. And where the industry is going. These kinds of teams pick up trends early, steal a march on competition, and buy themselves precious time to spend on evolving value. With awareness of open source trends, making the right strategic bet when technologies mature (think React Native or Kubernetes this year) is easy. Just rely on the evidence from your in-house experiments.
An added benefit? A culture of experimentation makes it significantly easier to hire brilliant, ever-curious engineers.