Technical decision-making beyond the tech stack
When you think about technical decision-making within your company, how many of those decisions come down to just the stack you’ll be developing with? It turns out there are far more choices you’ll have to make, and making them early on will help to avoid headaches down the road.
DeepMind | Unsplash
When it comes to technical decision making, you need to consider not just the best technology to use, but also the tools, solutions, and integrations that help shape your product. People and culture will play a big role in your decision, as will the goals of your business, the balance you’re striking with non-technical factors, and even ethics. When all of this is done well, your end product showcases every one of those decisions.
People and culture in technical decision-making
Does it feel counterintuitive to say that people and culture will have the biggest impact on your technical decision-making? It shouldn’t. Because you are building a product that will be used by, well, people.
Collaboration and communication are of the utmost importance in any successful business, because when people collaborate, they use their shared experiences to arrive at decisions that are more wholly thought out and inclusive of the team’s needs. Siloed teams run the risk of making decisions that affect the way other people in the company work, don’t align with the needs of the company and users, or turn into otherwise costly mistakes.
Another important aspect, and one we’ll dive into a little more below, is the diversity of the team making the technical decisions. When you choose to integrate a certain API or employ a pre-existing algorithm, get the opinions of a variety of people on how they perceive that solution. Is the tech you’re looking to use funding things you don’t agree with? Then it may be time to talk to your team about what the next option is.
How do technical decisions impact business goals?
It goes without saying that every technical decision should ultimately be measured by how well it helps achieve business goals. It also goes without saying that compromise will have to be made somewhere, and some decisions may be better aligned than others.
For example, maybe the most important factor for the powers that be is to launch the product quickly. In that case, the decision to use certain tech may be based on what the largest percentage of the team is already familiar with. Less time learning new languages means more time coding.
On the other hand, the goal may be to build something that is really performant, regardless of the amount of extra time it will take. Getting the team up to speed on a new technology that’s optimized for this kind of computing is worth it in the long run, if that performance is achieved.
Ethics and values in technical decision-making
It doesn’t matter what industry you are in or what your target market is; when you’re building a product, you want it to make an impact in someone’s life. A significant impact, if we’re talking long-term, big-goal, be-the-next-FAANG dreams. So you have to consider the ethical and moral implications of the decisions you’re making.
As I alluded to earlier, values play a significant role in technical decision-making. Take the decision to use a particular algorithm. Those algorithms are written by humans, and humans have been known to perpetuate biases and discriminate (Shocking, right?!). So when those biases and discriminations make their way into your product, what can you do to ensure you’re being fair and equal?
The final piece of this puzzle is privacy and security. As technology finds more and more sophisticated ways to learn every detail about our lives, it’s important to ensure your users’ information is safe within your product. Prioritize technical decisions that prioritize privacy.
Finding the balance with non-technical decisions
There will always be external factors to your technical decisions that are still important considerations. Cost is a huge one. The most technically advanced option may be the one that looks the most attractive, but if it’s got the price tag to match, that shine starts to dull. You have to balance the cost with the potential benefits, including the amount of time it takes to implement new tech.
Some other important factors are the user experience, what user needs you’re trying to address, and what the market demand is for the product you’re building. If you can get to market first, but the experience is so bad nobody wants to use it, does it really matter that you hit that goal?
Technical decision-making involves so much more than just tech stacks, APIs, and algorithms. People, culture, business goals, ethics, and finding balance all play an important role in reaching the right decision. By considering all of the angles, you will be better prepared to make decisions that align with your company’s goals and values, and take a better product to market.
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