27 May 2008

Test-driven IS strategy 4: implications

By Andrew Clifford

Test-driven strategy is easier to communicate and more flexible. It provides a clear mechanism for ongoing improvement.

Over the past three weeks, we have covered how the principles of test-driven development can be used to define and execute IS strategy. We have covered how system quality management provides a framework for this approach.

What are the benefits of this approach, and what are the drawbacks?

The main benefit is that it is simply a more efficient and more effective way to define and execute IS strategy. You spend less time and money on strategy, and achieve a better result.

There are three other key benefits:

Is there a downside to this approach? That depends on your perspective.

In a traditional approach, the strategy is expressed in terms of its implementation. This gives extra status to those who implement or work with "strategic" processes or "strategic" technologies. An evaluative approach changes this emphasis, and, politically, there will be winners and losers. Those who have built their careers by chasing after the next big thing in the name of strategy will lose out. The unsung heroes of IS, such as operations and support managers, will have the opportunity to show just how much their day-to-day activity drives the achievement of strategy.

On balance nobody really loses. This approach allows for better management of what we have, and more confident embracement of change.

Test-driven development is not really about testing. It is a way of thinking about systems, their design, and their development. An evaluative approach to strategy is similar. It is not really about checking that you are following strategy (though it does do that). It is a way of thinking about strategy, defining it, and executing it. It turns strategy from worthy words in a document to a practical tool for setting and achieving objectives.