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Our Technology Radar: lifting the lid on how we build, ship and scale digital products

April 26, 2021

by Mark Howard, Technology Director at Idean UK

When you start working with a new agency partner, you probably find yourself asking at least one of these questions:

  • What are your go-to cloud platforms and technology stacks?
  • Which languages and frameworks do you recommend?
  • What tools and techniques are you using to automate your work?
  • What’s your point of view on the technology you’re using and experimenting with?

As traditional businesses evolve to become digital-first organisations and new businesses are created with an immediate dependency on reliable technology choices, transparency and clarity over your tech stack are paramount.

In our Technology Community of Practice (CoP) at Idean London, our goal is to be fully transparent about how we build software, bringing technologies and software development techniques closer to other parts of a business. As a group of passionate and creatively-minded technologists, we believe the continual and rapid evolution of digital technology should be widely shared and understood and should inform our technical strategies.

But when technology is changing so quickly and your team is working across multiple projects, how do you quickly and easily answer those all-important questions? Enter the technology radar.

So what is a technology radar?

A technology radar is a curated and categorised list of technologies, tools and techniques that have been identified as being relevant to either a specific team, organisation or form part of a wider industry perspective.

The technologies are organised into groups based on their role and then assessed on their current maturity, relevance and usage. Items (or “blips” as they might be called) that are closer to the centre of the radar are technologies that are deemed to be more understood and used.

It’s up to the authoring group to decide what they would like their radar to represent and how they’d like to group and show relevancy. For example, a radar doesn’t have to relate specifically to technology: some organisations have created them to represent wider themes such as innovation. Half the fun in creating one is defining how you would like your curated items to be represented.

Idean Tech Radar

The January 2021 edition of our Idean London Technology Radar.

What did we learn from creating a technology radar?

Our technology radar serves as a framework and set of recommendations that guides our technology selection ahead of (re)developing a specific digital product or building an internal platform capability. It allows us to:

  • Make informed choices and consolidate learnings: The radar helps our engineering team align on technologies and engineering techniques across projects, and encourages them to feed back valuable learnings and experiences. Many of the technologies we’re confident in are now included in our own custom technology accelerators that enable our teams to build and launch robust digital experiences faster.

  • Have a forum to review and debate away from project requirements: Defining the Idean technology radar created a forum where we could review and debate items away from the requirements of specific projects. Some suggestions were new to some of us or only familiar by name, particularly in the Platforms & Data category. We also saw opinions vary between projects teams, for example, one favoured CSS modules over styled components. Both ended up in the ‘using’ ring but it will be interesting to see how opinions change over time.

  • Be forward-facing and more strategic: As well as representing our current technologies, the goal of our radar is forward-looking. We actively encourage suggestions of new tech, tools, platforms and techniques that might further improve how we build digital experiences in the future.

  • Have a shared goal for the community: In these recent times when we’ve all been working remotely, the tech radar has created a shared goal for the whole community to collaborate on; a reason to get together to share knowledge and opinions and to create something that we hope others will benefit from.

Why should you create a radar?

Perhaps your team or organisation are looking to consolidate technology choices and agree on a go-to set of recommendations and standards across the majority of your work? Or maybe your team has a solid view of your current technology stack but needs to track technologies on the horizon?

Then a radar is a good place to start.

It makes life a lot easier for software development teams and those whose role is close to Technology and IT. But it also provides value beyond your tech team. Transparency over your digital assets helps brings those techniques and knowledge closer to other parts of the business.

Lots of our partners have been inspired to create their own radar, and we can work with you to co-develop a framework that’s relevant to your needs.

How to create your own technology radar

Based on how our technical community created our technology radar, here’s what we suggest:

  • Organise a short series of virtual workshops with your wider technical community. Everyone is invited to contribute technologies and techniques that are being used and assessed or those that look interesting to start exploring.

  • Create a space for in-depth discussion and healthy debates around how relevant, mature and well-adopted items are.

  • Use a virtual voting system to formalise the technologies to include and the ring they should currently sit in. Be aware that the positioning of items will evolve over time.

Tell us what you think

As a community of practice, our technology radar has helped us to create a perspective on what’s relevant to us now and what the future may look like.

Now when we ask ourselves “If we were to start Project X again now, would we make the same choices or would we swap this for that?” or “Have you seen that this platform has now added these features - perhaps we should reconsider that now?” – we know where to find the answer.

The current version of the Idean Technology Radar has just been published and we already have lots of ideas for how to evolve the experience itself, in addition to updating the items that are included. You can also use the form on there to register for notifications whenever we publish new versions of the radar.

We’d love to hear from you if you spot something that you think should be included or would like to discuss any of our current technology choices. Please also get in touch if you are inspired to create your own radar, we’d be happy to discuss our experience with you and work together on the process of creating and publishing your technology radar.

Technology Director, Idean UK

Mark Howard

Mark is a Technology Leader and Architect with over 20 years experience in digital product development. He firmly believes that technologists are designers too and is an advocate for pragmatic technology choice and use of emerging tech.

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