These 5 evergreen goals are a useful way to help technology organizations of all sizes make decisions, categorize work, allocate resources, and spur innovation and productivity without interfering with team-specific, time-boxed goals. Whether you’re leading through change or focusing your team, these evergreen goals (or your variations of them) might just be what you need to bring foundational consistency to your technology organization without slowing them down. Here’s our set of evergreen goals.
1. Reduce Complexity
Some systems might be complex because the problems they address are complicated. Perhaps the complexity is justified. That said, it’s startling how much complexity is created unintentionally. This evergreen goal is focused on reducing accidental or unintentional complexity. Sometimes it’s created because of expediency, but often it’s the result of architecture that does not evolve properly. The end result is the same, however. You probably see this in some of your own systems as they become increasingly difficult to fix or improve in a timely manner without causing problems in other areas. Unintentionally complex systems are also difficult to secure, scale, move, and recover. I’ve seen this at startups as well as at long standing companies like Morningstar with lengthy histories of product development, acquisitions, and integration. This goal is not only about technology but is also about reducing complexity in the processes that drive how we we plan, work together, communicate, and hire.
2. Improve Product Completeness
Technology teams often cut corners in order to deliver promised functionality on schedule. Regardless of why or how that happens, it does. The purpose of this evergreen goal is to encourage teams to always think intentionally about product completeness. We challenge our teams to continually find ways to improve security, scalability, and resilience, for example, and not just ways to deliver new functionality. Completeness work is often very underappreciated until something terrible happens. Don’t wait until you experience a data breach, extended downtime, or an inability to scale before you think about product completeness. Be pragmatic, but don’t be foolish.
3. Increase Uptime
Delivering a product (internal or otherwise) is one thing, but keeping it up and running is an operational challenge that is often an afterthought in many organizations. The purpose of this evergreen goal is to encourage teams to think about monitoring, alerting, logging, incident response, recoverability, and automation. This isn’t just about technology. It’s also about ensuring that operations processes are efficient, modern, updated, and focused on the customer. Identify and correct problems before your customers report them. They expect that from you.
4. Own Less Infrastructure
In this modern age of high quality public cloud infrastructure, it makes little sense for most companies to run their own data centers for most of their workloads. It’s rarely a business differentiator anymore. Obviously, this evergreen goal might only apply to you if you’re still running your own data centers, but also consider other infrastructure you might own. Do you have your own call center equipment, for example? It might be worth rethinking that. At Morningstar, we are in the middle of a multi-year cloud transformation and this goal is particularly important to us. The purpose of this goal is to encourage teams to find ways to reduce current infrastructure footprints so that we can continue to draw down our dependence on the infrastructure that we own and maintain.
5. Maximize Talent
The technology landscape is changing so quickly and access to rich web services is abundant. A quick look at any major cloud service provider reveals that they’ve moved well beyond infrastructure services into services that spur innovation and increase productivity. Look at all the services related to machine learning, for example. Hopefully, you’ve hired people not just for what they already know but also for their aptitude and desire for continuing education. The tendency for many companies is to hire from the outside without first considering modernizing the skill sets of people they already have in-house. The modern workforce expects companies to invest in professional development, so this evergreen goal to maximize talent is a constant reminder to do that. It benefits individuals, teams, and the overall business to re-skill in-house talent.
Remember though, that you cannot immediately change culture. You have to nurture and evolve it. Installing and promoting these evergreen goals is often like creating a new habit or lifestyle change. It requires commitment, persistence, repetition, and encouragement. Use the terminology and concepts in meetings, conversations, and presentations, and encourage others to do the same. Make the effort inclusive, sustained, and intentional. The overall purpose for these evergreen goals is to remove friction from your technology organization in order to spur innovation and increase productivity. Sometimes simple measures like these yield the most impressive results.