A good strategy will say what not to do

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the importance of a business strategy, and its relationship to a product strategy and a technology strategy. But if we’re going to produce a strategy, or if we need to evaluate one, what distinguishes a good one from a bad one? A technologist thinking about creating a technology strategy is a consumer of the business strategy, so what will help them?

To me a good strategy is as clear about saying No to things as it as about saying Yes.

For example, if we’re a b2b company, will our customers be small businesses or large ones? Are we aiming for just the UK for now, or will we take on customers from any country? What sectors are we going to focus on, or are all sectors potential revenue streams for us?

Many strategies use language that is so vague they can allow anything. Too many of us in tech have been on the receiving end of sales people who have over-promised. If the strategy is too broad then the message to them is “anything goes”. The result is that the delivery teams are simply reactive at best, or wasting their time on the wrong thing at worst.

But if our business strategy provides some boundaries then the product and technology teams can make a good stab at planning for the future. Is internationalisation a priority, or can we postpone that? Can we go all-cloud, or do we have to allow for on-premise options, too? Do we need everything to be configured via a UI, or can we allow specialists to configure systems? How far do we go with security?

If a strategy tells us what not to do then it acts a useful guide.

Photo by DBPerko