I received an email from a coworker. The email was terse and wordy at the same time. I’m not sure what the author wants from me. I think he wants me to take some action. Perhaps he wants me to help advocate for the use of the tool he is talking about. Perhaps he wants me to tell him what his next steps should be. It is a rambling email that never gets to the point.
I read my fair share of emails like this. I have written them as well. And not just email. Much of what I read could get to the point much faster. I am trying to get better at writing by writing more. I am using an excellent tool, Hemingway Editor, that helps a lot with keeping my writing succinct.
The biggest problem I have in my writing is long rambling sentences. I often write sentences that should have been a paragraph. These are never as clear and understandable as they sounded in my head. That alone is reason enough to use Hemingway but it has other features that help reduce complexity. If you spend any amount of time writing, you should give it a try.
In the current edition of the ThoughtWorks Technology Radar one item they suggest is to create a technology radar for your own company. As I have been tasked with tracking what tools and technologies we use and might use, it seemed like a excellent suggestion. It’s a great format to present this information in a very readable and usable fashion.
And then the reality sets in. I don’t know how to make that pretty little target-like graphic and populate the dots. It seemed like I could use Excel. But try as I might, the radar chart type just wasn’t doing the job. So I looked to see what my drawing tool of choice, Visio, could do for me. Again, no dice.
So, as a last resort, I went to PowerPoint. And then it occurred to me – the content and general idea of how the items relate is what is truly important. And I probably didn’t just have 4 classifications I cared about. Plus, I want to be able to show the items that have been rejected or retired. So I came up with a flatter chart that does the trick. I have a page for each class of technologies, which reduces the clutter a bit. It also allows me to have many different classifications, which better serves my purposes.
You can of course use whatever phases you’d like for your chart. The first 3 columns in my chart are for technologies that are being evaluated. The fourth column is for technologies currently in use, the last two for technologies that we are weaning ourselves from. The bottom chart is for items we have rejected and retired, as well as a holding spot for technologies that we had been researching but stopped looking at for the moment because of some changing priority.
The actual items themselves are just text boxes. This makes them easy to move around, which allows you to easily update the chart with any changes. I’m planning to release a new version of this internally every month. You could do it whatever frequency makes sense for you’re company.
You can download a sample slide to use as a basis for your chart here. Just duplicate the slide for every classification you want to track.