Technology Roadmap - our Lifeblood.
Our technology (or development) roadmap charts what lies ahead in terms of technical development. It is by design fluid - containing a whole host of potential parcels of work. Individual parcels are called off and passed into active development in line with commercial priorities and user needs.
Putting Our Technology Roadmap to Work - for Clients
When we do discuss ongoing and future development with non-specialists, we find the most useful analogy is to illustrate the process as a landing field, with a control tower overseeing the flights that circle above in a holding pattern.
Each flight is a potential parcel of work. Some are large. Some small. Each, we believe, has potential to improve Vendmanager by benefitting our clients and/or our sector.
Our role at SBS includes ATC (air traffic control) - deciding which flights will land when. And also much more because we decide which flights take off when, and fix their destination and duration.
There are always more “flights in the air” than we can land at any one time - and that’s how it should be. We prioritise landing slots against commercial and technical criteria, as well as client priorities.
From time to time, legal developments oblige adaptations to our schedule, but this is rare - because we choose to stay ahead of the game, preparing for initiatives such as CQUIN well in advance.
Key elements of this system for managing our technology roadmap include:
Origination of “flights” (potential parcels of development): we collect as many as possible. There can never be too many good ideas. Our sources? Anywhere and anyone - we’re always on the look out, asking questions, challenging established ways of working and bottling potential good ideas for progression when/if the time is right.
The “reservoir” - that’s the holding pattern in the ATC analogy. All those good ideas need to be logged and stored somewhere, with easy cross-reference - for retrieval later. Nothing gets lost down the back of the sofa.
Prioritisation. We can’t do everything at once. So which parcels are we going to do when? What’s next? How can we deliver the most performance bang for our development bucks? These questions will never go away. Good.
Initiation: moving from holding to activation - authorising and scheduling a flight to land as it were: it’s important that the number and sequencing is controlled carefully.
Setting barriers to initiation. This may sound odd at first, but it is better to set the hurdle relatively high before work actually starts on a specific item. The reasons include focus, quality, delivery, efficiency and oversight. It’s better to focus attention elsewhere than to direct resource onto a job that stays unfinished.
Establishing objectives clearly and avoiding “mission drift”. This is not the same as deciding to adapt course in the light of new information / understanding. Straying is bad. Controlled adaptability is good.
Monitoring progress (against specification / schedule / budget): our close-knit team have grown together, and we always recruit ahead of the curve with the mantra of avoiding strains in development and communication, rather than having to recover from them. However, ongoing clear exchanges of updates are essential to results.
And for us, monitoring is always a two-way process, involving all parties.
Evaluating success - with role-specialists using the right lens for their own specific accountability. For example, software engineers are responsible for code integrity. Account managers with ongoing day-to-day contact on the ground are responsible for field delivery and client acceptance / implementation. It’s best for everyone that these lines of duty stay in place.
Feedback loop: whatever happens on a project, we do our best to learn from the experience. What should we avoid/change in the future? How can we build on the positives and the negatives? What new ideas spring to mind as a result of recent experience?
Why Ongoing Progress is Vital
Vendmanager is not static.
It never will be.
It never should be.
Its very essence is dynamic: moving forward to deliver ever more, ever better. Improving:
- customer service.
Why wouldn’t our clients want the best available? They deserve it. And with technology, the best keeps on getting better.
So does Vendmanager.
Because Vendmanager is dynamic, two things are essential:
- efficient management for control, to deliver as much as possible as soon as we can.
- flexibility for responsiveness, to adapt to a landscape that is itself fast-moving.
Take our recent integration with LightSpeed for example. This was the first ever in Europe. Read the story here.
Earlier this year we integrated Vendmanager with LightSpeed, the pick to order solution from the USA. That could never have been anticipated far in advance. We were bringing new functionality to bear for our clients (Express Vending), using technology that did not exist a short while ago.
As well as planning and scheduling systematically, we always need to remain fleet of foot - ready to respond.
The technology roadmap isn’t just our way of working, it’s our very lifeblood.
We calculate the lead we have over the competition in time: we are X months ahead of the field. But this is calculated in terms of “they are doing now what we were doing X months ago.” Copying is always faster than innovating and originating. So, if anyone has the capabilities, motivation, dedication and resource, they “could” catch up in less than X months - with a fair wind.
But only if we stand still in the meantime. And that’s never going to happen.
For us, standing still would be the equivalent of going backwards at high speed. And we don’t have a reverse gear.
Published 26th September 2018
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