Saturday, 12 March 2016

(Another) Series of Quadrants for Describing Tools within Strategy

From the outset I should say I'm probably writing this for a global audience of one! Appreciate that many people would look at the following and think "so what?"

I worked with some colleagues at an IT Forum this week, and one activity produced by the mighty James Penny (@JSPenny1, or see his website) was an adaptation of Gartner's Magic Quadrants.

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The Magic Quadrants look to me to be a tool to help people decide where to invest in technologies. We have the niche player, the up and coming visionary, the leaders where the main market is and the challengers that work well but are not necessarily progressing with the market.

I find tools like this helpful to make me think - I've blogged about Salmon's model for e-Learning (and I'll come to it again below) which I think has been the single most useful idea from the EDX028 course for me so far.

What James did, and asked us to do, was to consider the technologies we were working with and map them onto a version of this model.

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I like this approach - it made us discuss the different technologies and how perhaps our approach and thinking needs to be different in different areas. On reflection though I think Jame's definition of Challenger is a bit kind and doesn't capture the idea of the "technology that had it's day but we still use, but maybe not for much longer." This is important - I need to keep on my radar:
  • Things that are exciting, interesting but unproven and not yet prime time (visionary, I'd prefer to call them rising stars)
  • Things that are mainstream, mass use and need to run well and keep developing (leaders, I prefer bright stars)
  • Things that frankly are important for a very limited number of people (niche)
  • Things we use and need to keep running, but need to be thinking where we go next (challengers, I prefer fading stars).
That last category is really important for what Hargreaves described as "the creative abandonment of redundant practice." We cannot keep piling layers of new tools and ideas onto current provision and expect it all to still make sense and work well. Just as we spot new ideas and approaches, come to understand and adopt them at scale, we need to identify the things that are currently useful but have only a finite expected life - and plan for their end.

So my refinement of Jame's grid looks like this:

click for full-sized view.
But what's the point?

Well, the Salmon model helps me to consider four main areas of development, but it is a steady state description, but in real life there are things that are Core-Core today that we need to be planning the end of (Challengers, although that's not a good term), and things that are Core-New that we need to be planning to co-opt and take to scale  (Visionaries). Not everything in Core-Core is a long term strategic bet for the organisation.

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When thinking about a major set of developments for IT at work, the model above has clarified for me:
  • Where's the work where I need to keep my eye on the ball about delivery? About reliable, clear, simple services that every teacher and every learner should expect to "just work?"
  • Where's the work where we're looking for new ideas and exploring them, where we need to give permission for people to take risks and step from under the technical support umbrella for a little drizzle?
  • How can I apply familiar systems and technologies to the new challenges we're looking to deal with?
I want something that combines the two, because I don't believe they do the same thing, although there are similarities.

I want to be able to describe the "ascendance" of a set of tools. Are they in quiet decline, maintain them until they are set aside more? Are they core and expected to continue to be so, requiring investment, effort and ongoing development? There is limited resource to do that. Are they the next big thing? Are they actually something that might appear super-important, but in reality only of interest to a few people and best delegated to them to look after it themselves?

I did wonder about a 3D model thing but:
  1. I can't draw it
  2. I can't think of any 3D framework/ quadrant model that anyone actually found useful, ever.
So I'll ponder a bit. I haven't done a Venn-Diagram in a few weeks, maybe....

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