Understanding the “what” and the “how” of developing a technology strategy is the first step to success

Successfully planning how to implement change to your IT and Tech infrastructure often be confusing; I often equate it to continual travel schedule changes. For example, imagine I were to tell you that I want to go to San Francisco from Los Angeles. You then begin plans to determine the best way to travel to San Francisco by either car, plane, or boat. After careful analysis, you select flight as the most efficient way to get us to San Francisco and begin working on travel plans and booking flights. About midway through your work to get us to San Francisco, I come back and say actually, Toronto is a much better destination. How would you feel if the tickets had been purchased and lodging booked? You may be a little irked, confused or frustrated right?

In my line of work, this is often what many clients do to their teams by believing that technology related project objectives are fluid and can be a “living document” to be changed anytime. They have not defined the end goal, the “what” part of tech strategy that addresses just “what” are we doing. If they do not define the “what,” they cannot define the “how” of any project. Would you start building something if you did not know what the end product was supposed to be? Probably not right? There are too many unknown variables!

Let’s be honest, defining the “what” part of tech strategy is hard work; it is commonly avoided or giving very minimal attention by managers and executives before embarking on that high-profile digital initiative. It is what causes many tech teams, designers, and project managers to pull their hair out as they attempt to lock down the objective of a project while being simultaneously pushed to “just build the damn thing and get it launched.”

So how do we avoid the headache and get stakeholders to agree on objectives that provide the team with a compass to find the project’s “True North?”

My advice is to be honest with managers, executives, and clients. Let them know that by “evolving” goals, they are forcing the team to constantly find a moving target. This typically results in increased costs, delayed or cancelled projects, and a huge hit to team morale. By defining the objectives upfront, the success metrics can be defined and measured upfront. If the metrics dictate a pivot, you have the data to back up a change in strategy. This is why it is critical to define the “what” in your tech or digital strategy before you ever start working on “how” you will do it.

Once you have the “what” defined, you are free to be creative in “how” you build your solution, roll it out to the masses, and move closer to being a digital rock star!