Bram recently updated our website with a list of technologies that we at JTeam find interesting. The list (available from the JTeam website) currently holds things such as Solr, Spring, Flex and Wicket.
The things on the list do not come out of nowhere. We’ve always been a company partially driven by technology and innovation. We are always on the lookout for new technologies that can help us realize our projects in a more efficient yet exciting way. This way we became involved with for example the Spring Framework, which finally resulted in us co-founding SpringSource.
Recently, we decided we should visualize our view of the (technology) world a bit more and the format we’ve used is the BCG Matrix that puts a business’ activities into one of four categories. Paraphrasing and translating this to our business (the enterprise software deveopment industry), the four categories are
- (Cash) cows – technologies with a high marker share in a slow-growing or mainstream sector that can help us big-time realizing our projects. Technology in this areas are regarded as being mature and sometimes possibly a bit boring. They generate money and interest though from a large amount of users in a sector that we find interesting
- Stars – rapidly growing technologies with a high market share in the early-adopters area. We already use these technologies to realize projects in a more efficient way than we used to do. Technologies in this area are cool and regarded as being innovative. Potentially, technologies in this area can become cows if managed correctly
- Question marks – technologies that grow quickly, but still do not generate significant amounts of revenue. Should be invested in in order to make them stars. Potentially technologies in this area could add to our ability to better service our clients
- Dogs – technologies that (in our minds) do not add to our possibility to implement and maintain software enough, do not generate enough money to make a profit from given our current situation and/or are not interesting enough for us to invest time in
After having categorized the technologies that we use and might want to use, we ended up with a pretty solid matrix. The challenge with things like this usually is in my opinion how to make them part of the company’s mindset and to keep them alive. We long though about a way to make this happen and we settled on putting it up somewhere in a prominent area in the office. Not only did we want to put it up somewhere, it should be editable in a way.
To do this, I’ve ordered semi-permanent whiteboard markers. I didn’t know these things existed and found out about them after some Google’ing. They’re only erasable by using a wet cloth. This means if you scribble on the window or whiteboard using a normal whiteboard marker, you can still erase the scribbling, but not the semi-permanent stuff.
I’ve drawn up the matrix on the window near our lunch table. This way, we can look at it over lunch and discuss things. The window looks out over the city so people can also pretend to be looking at it, while in fact they’re enjoying the view.
It’s been up there for about an hour and people already began scribbling on the window to express their disagreement with the way some things are categorized. Also, some things have been added and some renamed. It seems like it’s working :-).
In the future, you can expect more blog entries about individual technologies on this list. Some opinions might be controversial or personal to one individual employee in the company, nevertheless they always add to the discussion about what should be in the matrix and where.
That’s a nice and management-compatible way of doing what I do all the time. Thanks.
So how about a complete picture of your BCG matrix?
Well, there’s first of all a practical reason for not putting up a complete picture of the matrix as it’s currently drawn up on the window. The light prevents me from taking a nice picture and other than that, it’s a bit too big :-).
There’s no real other reason for not putting up the stars, cash cows and question marks to be honest. It’s not that we don’t want to share it with the world or so. So if I have time and it makes sense, I’ll probably highlight these categories in more detail.
The dogs is a different story though. There are so many technologies that we might want to put in there, that we can’t possibly name them all and then putting it online would just make it look like arbitrary decision and possibly even like we’re trying to bash certain technologies (which we’re not trying to do).