How to Create a Technology Strategy for your Growing Digital Product
- Product Development /
- Product Strategy /
As a business leader, it is critical that you are always seeking to define and develop your digital product’s growth strategy and roadmap. This is not an easy task; it requires a detailed assessment of the challenges your product must overcome to serve the needs of users. You must also envision the future and how technology will impact delivering on your critical outcomes. You need to look at these long-term predictions and evaluate how to apply short-term changes to your own product strategy to maximize its growth, while simultaneously establishing a foundation for the next iteration of your product. Incorporating a progressive technology strategy into your plans is an essential part of achieving both your short-term and long-term business success. Your technology strategy is also key to being resilient to inevitable change, uncertainty, and new opportunities.
While every company needs to determine the best methods to establish the right metrics for themselves, common tools include omnichannel business and product strategy, product roadmap, and technical architecture for the next 3+ years. This article outlines these and other methods you can utilize to level-up your digital solutions and technology architecture to become competitive, and position your digital product for future exponential growth.
How to Create a Successful Technology Growth Strategy
There are many methods that can be leveraged to create a technology growth strategy for your digital product. These methods ensure that you have a clear path towards the evolution and transformation of your digital product. This will help build the digital organization that can execute and support the business evolution.
Starting this process can be daunting at first, so a typical point to start with is inventorying and analyzing your existing product and building out. Here are the analysis methods that we use in our client projects to focus on an existing product(s):
- Current state analysis/service blueprint: This provides a 360-degree view of your digital product. It brings together everything involved in managing, creating, developing, and supporting your offering. A service blueprint allows you to identify where to focus research and identify areas of opportunity across the product. This ensures clarity at the product level, a shared understanding that aligns all team members, and that you have all the required information to identify the ideal state of your digital product.
- Analysis of current technical infrastructure: This document inventories the current infrastructure (key data points), its interdependencies, and adds fidelity to any existing ecosystem diagram. Be sure to diagram the data flows and system dependencies.
- Analysis of current software development life cycle (SDLC) and governance: Here we document and diagram the current software development workflows and tooling. For example, this would include continuous integration or continuous development, quality assurance, and integrations with other teams.
- Audit of the current organization and team structure: Document your current team structure, which team members carry which roles and responsibilities, and the workflows within the organization.
- Audit of current data collection and availability: Document what data is collected in your digital product, where it is stored, and how it is consumed. Does how the data is made available align with your organization’s objectives? Can it be consumed by other systems that are located upstream or downstream of the data source?
- Review of administration functions and usability: If there is an admin or content management component to your product, how well does this support the users’ role to maintain the application?
Key Criteria for Evaluating and Creating Your Technical Debt Strategy
Depending on the age of your digital product and the quality of the planning and work leading up to this point, you will need to address your product’s technical debt as part of your technology strategy. Perhaps your application code was written poorly the first time. Maybe there was a conscious choice to save time and money in the short run, designing and developing more for the present than the future. Either way, you may end up with a debt that you’ll pay as you’re forced to go back and refactor, consolidate, or completely rewrite something.
We evaluate our clients’ products against the following criteria to determine how much technical debt needs to be accounted for:
- Performance: Depending on your requirements, your digital product should have both high availability and meet the performance standards required of your users, while being cost effective and resource efficient.
- Scalability: Is there variability in your expected user load? If so, how well can the systems adapt to the changing user load? If you have a customer-facing application that will encounter heavier demand over time, this will be of more concern than if you are serving an internal, predictable user base. When you do need to scale the platform’s systems, you want to ensure this can be performed with minimal downtime. Determine if the performance of your product can scale to meet future needs, or if you will need to revisit the underlying platform of your product. Modern cloud hosting environments offer a variety of solutions that work better for some cases than for others.
- Maintainability: Over time, your systems need to be maintained to remain competitive with technology standards and security needs. Depending on the system operations (SysOps) and development operations (DevOps) capabilities of your team, you will want to carefully consider if managing the platform systems yourself is the right choice. You may determine that migrating to a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) provider is a sage decision. Also, consider if the existing product codebase is maintainable, if the tech stack consists of technologies that are contemporary and secure, and, if you are able to hire engineers that can work with these technologies.
- Software Architecture: As your platform grows, how easy is it to add new applications and components? The architecture of the ecosystem, its decomposition, and even the architecture of the individual components plays a huge role in how elegantly your software grows and changes over time to support evolving business goals and your associated software features.
- Security: Following security best practices, such as the OWASP (Open Web Application Security Project) recommendations, should be requisite, yet there are a multitude of factors that come into play when approaching security for scale. For example, maintaining your own authentication system may make sense if you are starting out, but in the long run, do you want to be responsible for the personally identifiable information (PII) of all your users? Outsourcing such important responsibilities to a company specializing in authentication security, such as Auth0, could be a better choice for future scalability. When protecting against DDoS attempts and other hacking threats, a service such as Cloudflare can offload responsibilities from your team and future proof your products as they grow in popularity.
Create Your Product Roadmap
Once you’ve completed the analysis of your existing product state, it is time to look to the future. Before you can dive into the technology strategy, you will need to build your product roadmap based on your larger business goals and any market research that you’ve developed. Your product roadmap is a shared source of truth that outlines the vision, direction, priorities, and progress of your product over time. It’s a plan of action that aligns the organization around short- and long-term goals for the product or project, and how they will be achieved.
Creating a product roadmap is a topic in and of itself. Atlassian has an excellent article on how to create a product roadmap.
Defining Your Product’s Technology Strategy
Your technology strategy exists to serve your product vision. With the vision and product roadmap in place, you can now document the individual elements of your technology strategy:
- Technical infrastructure: Design and document the future solutions architecture. This includes a system diagram, key data flows, and dependencies. It can also cover application programming interfaces (APIs), User Interfaces (UIs), and third-party services integrations.
- Technical roadmap: Create the technical roadmap to support the product feature roadmap. This outlines how your technical infrastructure needs to evolve over time, including initiatives such as migrating different software systems or rolling out software updates. This also needs to address resolving or mitigating any technical debt.
- Software development life cycle (SDLC) and governance model: Design and document the recommended software development workflow. This includes tooling, such as a ticketing system and knowledge base, as well as quality assurance and automated testing.
- Data collection: Create a recommended data and reporting scheme, plus documentation of existing capabilities and gaps.
- Organization and team structure: Design and document the recommended organization and team structure required to support software delivery goals. Will you need to hire new team members to support your goals? Do you need to reorganize your team to fit your roadmap requirements?
- Financial plan and investment schedule: Based on the product/feature roadmap and technical roadmap, create a schedule that outlines when purchases/spend will be required to support the roadmap for your digital product’s growth strategy. This includes project budgets.
Bringing It All Together
Now that you’ve compiled your digital product’s current state, product roadmap, and future state, you have a comprehensive roadmap and technology strategy that your team can execute on. From here you can work towards achieving your 3-year vision. We recommend revisiting this process end-to-end every 12 months to ensure you are still on the right track. Fortunately, since many of the assets will already have been created and only need to be modified, the second time around should be significantly faster.