How FINN made our Tech Strategy

Vegard Storstad
Jun 26, 2019 · 6 min read

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.

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FINN Technology (size illustrated in blue) uses a tech strategy to paint our vision and define common goals. Friends of tech (FINN colleagues, illustrated in yellow) can read the highlights to quickly gain an understanding of how the tech strategy will help FINN achieve our company vision and objectives. Group image from 2018 Chantilly 🇫🇷 kick-off!

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?

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 But its goals and visions were pretty much achieved, the description of the surroundings were no longer valid and the ownership and implementation in the organization wasn’t strong enough.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

To demystify strategy work and to set expectations for the organization (and ourselves), we shared an ambitious timeline for fall 2018.

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Timeline was shared from the beginning. Green marks to show that we were on track, colored dots to connect to already planned meetings, and a sinus showing that we wanted feedback on drafts. Little did we know that Schibsted were to split in two companies in week 38 💣

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.

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Kims game. FINN-version 😇

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
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Already from the start, we set format expectations to the final delivery.

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.

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During the second iteration we understood the need to cut things even further and establish a simple structure to avoid ambition overload.

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Each chapter describes current situation (good & bad), draws our vision within the topic, choices to get there (upcoming & taken) and KPI’s where we’ll monitor how we’re on track.

The Final Result

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)

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The 1-slide version of FINN’s Tech Strategy. To be included in other presentations to remind colleagues on what we’re trying to archive together to help our users. Repeat again and again and again and again ✌️

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?

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Launching a new Tech Strategy hopefully helps fellow developers & managers to see where we’re headed, but colleagues also just could have had cake 📈

Where did we #fail?

Now what?

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. ❤️

FINN.no Blog – Product, Design, and Tech

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