6 Strategies to Move Your Technical Organization Forward in a Slow Economy

Seven people sit in a whitewater raft as they approach a big rock to their left. The water is relatively calm. Photo by Herve on Unsplash.

Steve Hennegan
Steve Hennegan

February 14, 2023

During a slow economy, it can be challenging for a technical organization to move forward and continue to innovate. Here are a few strategies your organization can use to stay competitive and continue to make progress.

1. Focus On Efficiency

Look for ways to streamline your operations and reduce costs without sacrificing quality or productivity. This could involve cutting unnecessary expenses, implementing more efficient processes, or finding ways to use resources more effectively.

We hear many of these conversations revolving around whether to hire directly or rely on contractors. 8th Light believes in having your own in-house team when possible. It’s important for businesses to own the domain knowledge and expertise of their niche. That’s why we often look to amplify an existing team, not replace them.

Hiring a team like 8th Light can be useful for organizations that want to expand but don’t have the expertise in-house. We bring specialized skills, helping build new features or products while simultaneously building capabilities within your team to maintain it in the future.

2. Prioritize Customer Needs

Make sure you are meeting the needs of your customers by actively listening to their feedback and adapting your products or services accordingly. Lots of teams are talking about product-led growth, and shifting their focus to stay competitive and maintain strong relationships with your users.

And right now is a great time to invest in understanding your clients better. Who are they and what do they want from you? How are their buying habits changing and how can we make that experience better, easier, more enjoyable? Surveying your clients also helps you understand what the competitors are doing.

If you know you need a change, think redesign instead of rebuild. UX designers help uncover features or improvements that engage your users, often yielding a high impact for lower cost. Even a visual refresh can help. Your loyal customers will appreciate a refresh, and you may even catch the eye of some new prospects. Our designers can help bring a fresh perspective and organize 360 feedback that aligns your product to work more seamlessly for your team and your users alike.

3. Invest In Employee Development

Slow economic times are a good opportunity to invest in your employees by providing them with training and development opportunities. This improves the skills and knowledge of your workforce, which ultimately can lead to more innovation and success for your organization. By coordinating across the entire company, you can align development opportunities with the larger business strategy.

Work with your existing team to identify gaps in their abilities. How many teammates are comfortable contributing to different portions of your system? Where is your team lacking in expertise? Once these gaps are identified, find out who is interested in filling the gaps. For example, if you lack an AWS expert, identify someone interested in their AWS certification over the next couple months.

This is another area where 8th Light can help amplify your team’s skills with a tailored training program. Our apprenticeship program has given us extensive experience training developers and designers to proficiency on a multitude of languages, technologies, disciplines, and consulting skills. Your team can lean on our mentors to design a capability development program that triangulates your team’s interests, your business’ goals, and your software’s long-term health.

4. Stay Up To Date On Industry Trends

Keep an eye on developments in your industry and consider how they may impact your business. This can help you stay ahead of the curve and identify opportunities for growth.

Technical Assessments can be a cost-effective way to identify areas of risk or need, or to develop a strategic plan for the new year. From design to architecture, our experts can help you plan for the future.

Another good way to glance into the future is by asking your team what they’ve been interested in lately. What topics are common themes on their podcast feeds, newsletters, Reddit forums, and blogs; and what are they spending their time learning more about? What do they want to learn more about?

This is another area where 8th Light can help. Lunch & Learn sessions with our team are great ways for your team to learn best practices and stay up to date on technical industry trends, which can help you identify opportunities for innovation while remaining ahead of the competition.

5. Look For Opportunities To Unify

Look for opportunities to remove barriers between departments and increase collaboration.

DevSecOps is a hot buzzword among many clients and the industry at large. Aligning the operational, security, and development teams is critical for a business looking to make decisions that bring the entire organization together.

We always encourage collaboration and cross-functional teamwork. Innovation often comes from bringing together people with different perspectives and expertise. Fostering a culture of collaboration and cross-functional teamwork will facilitate a natural flow of new ideas.

6. Focus On What’s Important

When the business cycle cools down, it’s a great time to focus on what’s important, and prepare your team to hit the ground running once things pick back up. In particular, we encourage teams to invest in architecture design and product management.

The architecture of a system describes its major components, their relationships (structures), and how they interact with each other. There are several factors that contribute to software architecture and design, including business strategy, team dynamics, IT environment, legacy code decisions, and more. Taking this time to map out what the backend architecture looks like — or should look like‚ is a great way to move things in a positive direction and empower your team to “hit the ground running” when the time is right.

Product management also influences your team’s ability to seize opportunities to grow and evolve. Whether you have a dedicated product manager or enlist a consulting expert like 8th Light, now is an ideal time to put heads together on an effective, actionable, and adaptive roadmap for your future. Take this time to listen and understand the strategic direction of your product, its features, and its priorities. This roadmap will lay the foundation for more informed product decisions and budgeting in the future.

The Cost of Doing Nothing

Many companies will be asking executives, directors, and managers to “push pause” and wait for more economic certainty. You can accept that fate or you can get scrappy, creative, and resourceful. The cost of standing still can be significant for organizations, as it leads to a lack of competitiveness and long-term decline. I understand that not everyone will have the ability to run, but I hope that some of these strategies will help you keep your momentum moving toward your goals.

If you want to discuss ways that 8th Light can help amplify your efforts, reach out to me on Linkedin or email.