ThoughtWorks conceived their “Technology Radar” in 2009 and it has become a bi-annual report of the current trends in our industry. With the accelerating rate of change and the inevitable tech bubbles, it’s important to keep an eye on industry trends or, as Neal Ford puts in, “Ignore the march of technology at your peril.”
ThoughtWorks is a NFJS tour partner, and we wanted to use their radar as a straw poll of technologies in various markets we bring conferences too. Our first is St Louis.
First some background. Neal Ford gives an excellent summary of the technology radar concept in his blog. Here’s a brief excerpt.
The radar metaphor provides concentric circles as shown here:
The radar is split into 4 quadrants (being a consulting company, we feel strangely compelled to produce things with quadrants): Techniques, Tools, Platforms, and Languages & Frameworks.
The radar has four rings, from outer to inner: hold, assess, trial, and adopt.
The original intent of the hold ring was “hold off for now”, to represent technologies that were too new to reasonably assess yet. We had in mind technologies that were getting lots of buzz but weren’t yet proven. The hold ring has evolved into our way of saying “don’t start anything new with this technology”. There’s no harm in using it on existing projects, but you should think twice about using this technology for new development. Hold is the closest we have to an avoid category, which Rebecca won’t let us have. But we’ve come to see great wisdom in that decision: true to the metaphor, your radar should be about things you are looking towards, not recriminations about the past.
The assess ring indicates that a technology is worth exploring with the goal of understanding how it will affect you. You should invest some effort (such as development spikes, research projects, attend conference sessions, etc.) to see if it will have an impact on your organization. For example, many large companies visibly went through this phase when formulating a mobile strategy.
The trial ring is for technologies you (and/or your peers) have decided are worth pursuing. It is important to understand how to build up this capability. Now is the time to pilot a low-risk project to “get dirty” with the technology so that you can really understand it. We wanted an objective criteria for ThoughtWorks to move something from assess to trial, and we decided the litmus test is serious usage: we must have used this technology on project work. We firmly believe that you can’t really fully assess technology unless you’ve used it to solve real problems, to help understand both its weaknesses and strengths. Often, the assess phase shows benefits but not limitations, whereas solving real problems provides a holistic view. After all, every technology is trying to entice you into using it, touting benefits but hiding deficiencies. It’s up to you to uncover the weaknesses in new technologies.
For technologies in the adopt ring, we feel strongly that the industry should be adopting these items. We use them where appropriate on our projects; as close to a “no brainer” as possible.
Bringing the Tech Radar to St Louis
With the permission of ThoughtWorks, we brought an interactive technology radar to our recent NoFluffJustStuff conference in St Louis and here are the results:
Let’s start in the center. There is a definite strong push for the cloud and cloud-native technologies
As well as a few techniques and technologies that still bring a lot of value to the table:
The Trial Ring
Our St Louis Attendees had a lot to say about technologies that are reaching maturity and worth actively exploring.
All got a lot of interest as well as some updated methodologies
And a few surprises in the Microsoft Stack (mostly given our content is JVM focused)
Assess and Hold
The other surprise from our attendees in St Louis were very few entries in the Assess and Hold categories. In fact, only one item was posted in the “Hold” ring
Indicating that the platform has some way to go yet before it’s ready for primetime.