How FINN made our Tech Strategy
FINN just revamped our plan for how our developers and tech leaders can support the strategic ambitions of Norway’s № 1 and World’s № 20 marketplace company 🔥
Here we’ll share why we did it, how we included 150+ geeks in the process and the final result we shared within our organization.
Another strategy, you say? Right, just what the world needs. I’ve worked in businesses that had no strategy and I’ve been to places with too many different strategies pulling in different directions. FINN is not perfect in this matter, but we’re pretty focused on common goals. And to inspire 400+ colleagues run for shared targets we need a strategy.
As a developer you hopefully find our current challenges and future visions interesting. As a (tech) manager you should read this piece as one of several approaches to create a strategy.
Wait but why?
FINN already has a corporate strategy, pointing out compass direction for our business. The FINN Strategy describes our values, social responsibility, growth ambitions, our marketplace verticals, biggest competitors and the relationship to Schibsted. It’s pretty solid, but it doesn’t give many hints to what a strong Norwegian tech organization should do to help.
With a separate tech strategy we can be more explicit on what we see as our biggest strengths, challenges, vision for the future and which KPI’s the organization should focus on. We also believe that by going into details on tech and the fact that things change fast, a tech strategy should be revisited 3–4 times a year to give relevant guidance. Is it still valid? Drink too much company Kool-Aid and you’ll forget that yesterday’s edge is today’s norm and tomorrow’s joke. On the other hand — some choices in tech even outlive corporate strategy turns left and right.
Last but not least; FINN already had a good tech strategy from 2015. But its goals and visions were pretty much achieved, the description of the surroundings were no longer valid and the ownership and implementation in the organization wasn’t strong enough.
The process blueprint
Tech management (TLG) decided before summer 2018 to draw up a new tech strategy process and that we wanted a task force approach; getting thoughts from colleagues who wanted to participate. A “TLG back room” approach would be too isolated, and to require every developer to engage in workstreams trickling up and down a hierarchy was also decided against. Some colleagues love a break from building tech, but many also love programming over debating common visions in strategy workshops. We wanted to tap into the mind of the engaged.
To demystify strategy work and to set expectations for the organization (and ourselves), we shared an ambitious timeline for fall 2018.
Tech management set the scope by brainstorming 13 topics the tech strategy should deal with:
architecture, legacy, convergence, security & GDPR, infrastructure & scaleability, uptime, innovation, competence, ability to deliver, quality, organization & teams, culture (diversity & behaviour), recruitment & onboarding
Already at this point we challenged developers to spot blank spots, but we found that we were pretty aligned with our organization. We also knew trying to remember 13 topics would end up like Kim’s game, but we trusted the task forces to refine, kill, merge or branch topics through the following weeks. Hopefully to a simpler overall message.
13 task forces then dived into their topics, with a few basic principles:
- We believe in early distribution and want to gather feedback along the way
- The quality of the final delivery is crucial to widespread use of the strategy
- The content must be well written, easy accessible and look good
- The strategy must be possible to consume from A-Z, but we also need to be able to refer easily to the tech strategy highlights
Through the first iteration, we converged 13 topics down to 4 chapters: tech culture, ability to deliver, architecture, infrastructure. A while after a 5th chapter on data was added to emphasize the importance of developing data driven products.
During the second iteration we understood the need to cut things even further and establish a simple structure to avoid ambition overload.
The Final Result
An eleven pages text document is left forgotten in someone’s Google Drive. But that’s okay, since this mostly served as an internal working document where we gathered what we learned through the strategy process. The document served us well while organizing the input from different streams.
The presentation (38 slides) is now our main tool when presenting FINN Tech Strategy to teams, new hires or to colleagues in other departments trying to figure out what tech is doing to deliver on FINN’s ambitions.
A single slide (below) is the reference to the main strategy lines, and will hopefully🤞 be used often by colleagues. It anchors FINN’s mission to the 5 top topics where we know tech will play an essential part:
Increase diversity & fuel engagement (TECH CULTURE)
Remove obstacles & collaborate with partners (ABILITY TO DELIVER)
Execute on fast changing business using Evolutionary Architecture (ACHITECTURE)
Champion tracking & share data (DATA)
Move FINN into the cloud (INFRASTRUCTURE)
By engaging colleagues on one or more of the above, we’ll do just fine. The tech strategy should leave plenty of space for bright talent to figure out what to do and how to do it.
Did we succeed?
Will the new tech strategy help FINN succeed? It’s hard to validate the value of a strategy, but it points a clear direction on selected topics. Every 6-ish week we’re gathering colleagues’ impression on 4 simple questions on wow we’re doing.
Where did we #fail?
I guess it’s not obvious yet, but Schibsted splitting out Adevinta was certainly not on the radar when we started. It set us back a few weeks, because TLG had set the split as a №1 priority. It also ment less focus in the strategy on converging with marketplaces outside the Nordics.
The plan going forward is to present our tech strategy to all teams and all new hires. Then it’s all about repeating, reminding and refining the strategy so that it will get traction as the strategic tool it’s meant to be.
What do you think? What did we neglect in the process or what do you miss from the final result?
Let us know in the comment section below FINNs mission.
We help people make smarter choices both for themselves and society. ❤️