Taking a Technology Vision Quest

Taking a Technology Vision Quest
Looking into the future to improve technology outcomes

More and more often I hear people say that the world is changing too fast to try and think ahead more than three years, or even one year. Not all that long ago we all thought a five-year plan was the norm, yet now leaders and managers no longer find that horizon reasonable to predict, plan for, or foresee.

Sadly, and pun very much intended, this is very shortsighted. As leaders the expectation is that we are looking into the future and trying to determine what the best course of action to take is. This requires us to at least attempt to make a prediction about what our specializations and markets will look like more than one, two, or even three years from now. If we can't peer into whatever crystal ball we have at our disposal and attempt to make decipher the future, how can we ever expect to inspire others to follow us confidently? This is not to say that we can always expect our predictions to be correct. Yet by going through this thought exercise, it shows you are more than just another member of the herd following whatever the latest consultant or industry talking head is telling you to do.

Dream big

Great leaders rarely abide by following whatever the latest consultant tells them to do. If it were that easy to lead and run an organization, every organization on earth would be successful and profitable. Instead, great leaders challenge themselves and their organizations to think of what could be if they were willing to change everything and not be fearful about dreaming big. This is why having a vision, and challenging yourself to think beyond a one-year horizon is so valuable if you want to set you and your organization apart. We need to aspire to more. We need to inspire our teams to aspire to more. We need to show people why we were chosen to lead in the first place.

With the "why" out of the way for needing a vision, it's time to put this in context of technology. Now the chorus grows even louder: How can you possibly have a long-term vision or roadmap for an organization's technology infrastructure and investments when things change so quickly? My counter to that is how can you possibly think you will continue to be a viable organization if you don't? Your vision as a technology leader is your stake in the ground. It is where you and your organization aspire to be and there should always be something more to do to perfect the attainment of that vision. Your one-, three-, and five-year outlook is how you are going to try and achieve that vision, either by creating or obtaining the technology necessary to do so.

My approach to this exercise is simple, yet effective. It is also something a technology leader can do with their teams to generate valuable feedback.

  1. Start with your organization's mission, vision, and values statements.
  2. Then add into that mix your organization's strategic objectives for the next year and beyond.
  3. Create three categories of goals, objectives, and activities: Your trusted timeline - 1 year, your horizon timeline - 3 years, and your visionary timeline - 5 years.
  4. On your own, or with your team, start to identify technologies that you will either need to procure or create to attain the goals and objective for these various time horizons.
  5. If the technology currently exists plan determine how to budget the capital and human resources to implement it within the time horizon identified.
  6. If the technology doesn't exist determine how to begin to allocate capital and human resources now to begin the creative process either internally or with 3rd party providers.
  7. The resulting roadmap is now your guide for attaining your vision.

A key part of this thought process is that you must treat the resulting roadmap as a living document. Anything in the horizon and visionary time periods can and will likely morph as the world changes around you. A technology you are working on creating may be developed by someone else and you need to pivot from creating to procuring. A technology that you are creating my turn out to not be the answer to for attaining your vision. You must be able to cut your losses and move on. In short, you must be willing to remain flexible and pivot when the situation dictates.

If you started dreaming big, what would you do? Give it a shot and see what happens. You will be glad you did.