Four Kitchens

How technical strategists fill your gaps in website management

6 Min. ReadDigital strategy

This post is co-authored by Heather Wozniak and Dave Hansen-Lange

For years, website rebuilds have followed an unfortunate cycle. You launch a site, its performance slowly declines, you decide it’s out of date, and eventually the cycle starts over again. However, if you consider the role of technical leadership, your organization could be freed from navigating a full redesign ever again.

Website rebuilds have long depended on designers and developers to create something great. Historically, these projects incorporated a “tech lead” who bridged the gap between both disciplines. As projects progressed, the tech lead created the plan for delivering each requirement up to launch.

Today’s digital climate moves too quickly for your organization to view the launch date as a finish line. Rather than only bridging the gap between development and design for “the big builds,” you need to free your developers from reacting to a constant churn of feature requests and site updates. Instead, your site should consistently evolve to suit your needs.

When your web agency incorporates a technical strategist, your website keeps pace with your organization in a way that’s flexible and ultimately more sustainable in the long run.

What does a technical strategist offer your organization?

A technical strategist isn’t someone who dictates solutions to your organization. Instead, the role is built on gathering and interpreting enough information for you to be more empowered as a site manager.

The glaring need for technical strategy is driven by changes to how websites are structured. Once relegated to inevitable decline as technology deteriorates, websites should now be built with enough flexibility to last. This is especially true for sites built on Drupal and WordPress, which enable developers to make smaller updates over time.

Websites are no longer monolithic technologies. A site’s frontend and backend require their own design and development expertise, as do their user experiences. Plus, third-party API integrations allow your site to be further broken down and improved piece by piece. With the right foundation, you no longer have to update your site by starting over with a relaunch.

Modern website development requires a new way of thinking about the tech lead. Rather than reacting to change requests and support requirements, technical strategists serve as a connector between every team involved with your site. Technical strategists align your website’s stakeholders with the designers, content strategists, UX specialists, and engineering team working toward its improvement.

By remaining focused on your site’s high-level goals, your web development agency’s technical strategist behaves like a tracking guide. The role is built on understanding where your site needs to go and finding the safest, most effective route that will take you there.

5 principles of successful technical strategy

Knowing all the facts and associated options for your website allows you to become a better advocate for your organization’s upcoming digital priorities.

Technical strategy is informed by five core principles:

1. Understanding your organization and its technology

Clarifying the breadth of your organization’s needs creates a foundation for every aspect of technical strategy. Along with knowing your organization’s website goals and technology stack, your technical strategist needs to recognize the needs of your users and stakeholders.

Initially informed by the Discovery process at the start of any engagement, understanding your digital needs requires constantly asking questions. But just as importantly, the goals and insights gained through Discovery should remain in focus after the site goes live.

Once a site is launched, it’s easy to forget about the user journeys and organizational objectives behind your initial design and development decisions. With the help of a technical strategist, your organization can continue to view those goals as a guiding force to inform new features and priorities.

Your objectives for the site inevitably are a work in progress. As you establish ways to measure how well your site is serving your needs, a technical strategist will have real-world feedback from user behavior to inform any ongoing adjustments.

2. Anticipating potential website issues

As technical strategists gain an understanding of your organization, they generate a clear picture of potential issues that lie ahead. Whether anticipating the impact of a software update or finding the best way to lock down content and prevent editing errors, technical strategists identify upcoming problems. And they interpret the time and budget required to best resolve them.

While forecasting the future for your site sounds magical, it’s really an ability informed by experience. If you’re working with the right web development partner, a technical strategist will anticipate potential problems organizations like yours have encountered. Consequently, they’re well suited to recognize possible complications from website changes and suggest alternatives.

Anticipating requires more than identifying potential roadblocks. An experienced technical strategist will recognize and suggest trends and technical advancements in your industry that can make a difference for your organization.

3. Planning for your organization’s future development needs

Websites are never complete. As your organization evolves, your technical strategist will make a plan with you to implement changes regardless of the size. Whether you need a feature translated into a second language or a broader site build, technical strategists enable your site to grow in a way that will minimize disruptions to your organization.

Seeing the forest for the trees enables technical strategists to suggest an iterative approach to site improvements. Launching with three core qualities—simple, lovable, and complete—allows your organization to gain an effective site that’s further enhanced over time with additional features.

As technical issues arise, a technical strategist will write and prioritize tickets for your developers. In a nod toward skills developed as project tech leads, your strategist will be able to estimate the time and costs associated with bug fixes and other changes.

4. Guiding your team through website enhancements

Technology changes rapidly, and new processes aren’t always easy to integrate with third-party tools or website platforms. With a technical strategist, you gain an expert guide to help maintain your organization’s complex systems in a straightforward, manageable way.

Or, if you’re a non-technical person in charge of a website, your web design agency’s technical strategist will offer clear choices for the best way to resolve issues. If you need a new feature, your strategist will propose two solutions. One option may be more flexible for the future but complex to implement. Another could be less intuitive to update but cheaper to produce. By clearly laying out all the considerations, technical strategists help you make a more informed decision.

A technical strategist also provides your organization with an experienced advocate for creating an inclusive, equitable website. Audience personas are a proven method to ensure a site delivers an effective user experience, but they don’t always account for everyone’s needs. By taking into consideration the stories behind your users, your strategist allows your site to serve the widest possible audience.

Working with a technical strategist also provides a much-needed outside perspective for your site. A good strategist guides you to serve your audience and maximize value for your organization by suggesting ways your site can function or resolve a nagging design challenge. In the process, you gain an experienced ally helping your team grow more successful.

5. Connecting the right experts to serve your website

By remaining positioned at the center of the action, your agency’s technical strategist ensures all the right people are in the room when it’s time to make a decision.

New website features may require input from design, UX, and your content team. Technical strategists know a little from each discipline, but they will also recognize when to bring in an expert. Where a tech lead once best bridged the gap between development and design, technical strategists ensure all of your website’s needs remain connected.

Why technical strategy is critical to a successful agency engagement

Technical strategy fundamentally ensures that your website consistently improves rather than slowly breaking down. By keeping your organization and its users in focus, your strategist will help you respond to changes to technology or the marketplace in a way that’s cost-effective and efficient.

Fortunately, if you’re working with a web development agency like Four Kitchens, we already operate using all these principles. Technical strategy is just part of what we do. However, through bundling this approach under a new role, we’re able to reaffirm our focus on remaining proactive in delivering the tools your organization needs.

To hear more about technical strategy, be sure to attend our session about the topic at DrupalCon, April 25–28, 2022 in Portland, OR.

Does this sound like you? We’re hiring technical strategists!