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Why We Created Tech Radar? The Ins and Outs of Our Open-Sourced Tech Solution

Tech Radar 2.0 is our recently published creation for exploring all of the technologies, methods, and tools used at Apptension. The tool is available on our website for potential clients to take a look in which areas we have more expertise and find out more about our projects. But, we also have the code open-sourced. Yep, that's right, you can find it on GitHub and take the code to create your own tech radar just as it is! 

However, this blog post is not about it. It's about coming to the idea of our Tech Radar, sharing it for the public, and keeping it up-to-date. So, let's dive right into it. 

The Inspiration

Back in 2018, we looked at the idea of Tech Radar, popularized by Thoughtworks. We asked ourselves - "how cool is that?!" We did even more research just to find one more tech radar from Zalando - a completely open contribution.

So, the idea of maintaining the up-to-date radar of trendy IT technologies and tools inspired us immensely. And inspired to the extent that we felt the urgent need to create our own. And to make it accessible to everyone! 

It was actually the easiest way to get out of the dark and show people what really drives us - being able to share our own expertise with the public, exchange ideas, and help independent developers improve. 

The First Release 

We were never "afraid" (as some companies still are) that someone would just steal the know-how. We hugely believe that the evolution of our industry comes from open-knowledge - open source projects that move the needle and help all of us grow. 

Quickly after our initial idea, our core developer Patryk adopted the Tech Radar (based on Zalando's project) and shared it with our fellow developers and clients on Github.

It was the very first variant of the radar, which we started using for recruitment and the clients. They totally loved it, however, the Tech Radar was still hidden from the public eye. But after years of successful stories about the Tech Radar, we decided to release our own application to the public - it's free. 

The Benefits of Having a Tech Radar

There were many reasons that pushed us towards creating our own tech Radar, but there were two crucial benefits we identified for ourselves: 

Building trust with the customers 

  • Customers who want specialized services can crawl Tech Radar to find out if you would be a great partner for them.
  • TechRadar is the easiest way to get your future customers acquainted with your technical stack - tools and methodologies you use to execute the work on the highest level.
  • If you are working with technical experts (such as CTOs), they will easily find out what your real technical offer is.

Transparency for candidates and employees about what stack they'll be working with

  • Support when picking technology for new projects
  • A common direction of technologies and toolset for our employees 
  • Assessment of the whole portfolio in terms of maturity 
  • A standardized method to assess new technologies
  • A way to spot gaps/training needs
  • Fostering knowledge-sharing and autonomy in decision-making processes

So, Why Did We Decide to Create Our Own Tech Radar? 

It seems that there are other cool radars out there, so why care and spend months of time to create one from scratch? Well, apart from the previously mentioned benefits that were already a significant push for action, there were some other key reasons that motivated Apptension to document its technologies for the public and update them regularly. And here they are: 

It’s a contribution to the open-source community

Since Zalando's radar was born, a few years have passed by. We believe that with the current state of front-end technologies, you can create a more unique and personalized experience. 

At Apptension, even internal projects can be helpful to other communities. Thus, we decided to contribute to the developer’s community with a refined open-source application.

Design consistency & interactivity

Apptension cares about product design, motion design, and interactivity of the apps - we basically cannot stand when something is not looking nice or is loading too slow... 

For example, with widely used technologies like React, you can achieve a very fine level of modularity and detail that translates to speed and interactivity of the apps. 

We also wanted to keep a level of personalization - like our own branding colors or logo. And that’s only possible if we crafted our own radar - fully unique. 

Responsive web experience

All of us use smartphones - and so do our clients, candidates, and employees. The Zalando's tech radar was, unfortunately, a desktop-only app that was not scaling properly on smaller devices. So, we knew from the start that ours would be mobile-optimized. 

Easy moderation

Another point with Zalando's tech radar was that its maintenance was a big hassle for us. Every time we needed to update the list with new technology, we had to use the precious human resources to deploy the app with the updates.

So, we decided to change that by enabling our editors to update the radar directly in Contentful - a headless CMS with powerful features. 

Modern stack

As we live and breathe technology, we couldn't leave the application without a set of tools we use on a daily basis. The core is based on Typescript with React, Ramda, Redux, Sagas, or D3… more neat tools we've used you will find in packages.json :)

Not only for developers!

We've spotted great potential in enhancing Tech Radar. In fact, we wanted it to be a tool for all Production teams - together with Product Management, Quality Assurance, Front-end, Backend, and Design. 

We added a feature to let the other teams add their methodologies and tools, which just made our Radar more receptive and not only tech-oriented. 

Now, it can be proudly called: The Tech Radar by Apptension.

The Features of Tech Radar by Apptension 

We wanted to stand out from the other radar creators, and as a result Tech Radar by Apptension has: 

  • Technologies in 4 categories and 4 adoption levels
  • Search to filter out elements on the radar
  • Filtering by adoption levels and teams who use specific technologies/tools
  • Details view with logo, description, alternatives, and links
  • Mobile support

How To Approach the Vetting Process

Tech Radar is something that must be kept as up-to-date as possible, so the vetting process is one of the most crucial things when you have one. Let's see how Thoughtworks, Zalando, and what we, as Apptension took over for our own vetting process: 

  • At Zalando, it's maintained by the Technologist Guild (app. 25 senior technologists) during their monthly meetings. The radar is based on the average of their votes. It's also accompanied by a collection of summaries of listed technologies (description, usage history, risks). All teams are encouraged to challenge the tech radar and provide feedback. 
  • Thoughtworks recommends gathering people (senior staff members) twice a year to update it. Everyone uses post-its to write their nominees for each quadrant (category) & sticks them on the whiteboard in an appropriate ring. The notes are grouped. As a group, they discuss each technology, whether it should remain on the radar, and where. Someone writes a few-sentence description about each decision. For existing entries - discuss whether they should be moved/faded/re-blipped.
  • At Apptension, we revalidate Tech Radar with our senior Managers. Once per quarter, they are invited to update the current stack with tools they used in the projects.

Long story short…

Tech Radar by Apptension is a precious creation - an idea we borrowed from the industry leaders, and got it to the next level with the efforts of the best minds from our company. 

You can see our Tech Radar in action: https://radar.apptension.com/ 

Or check out the open-source radar on GitHub: https://github.com/apptension/tech-radar

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Why We Created Tech Radar? The Ins and Outs of Our Open-Sourced Tech Solution

May 30, 2022
7
minutes read
audio description available
TL;DR

Creating our own Tech Radar took some great months of work from our best minds, still it was very worth doing. Why didn't we make use of the existing radars, like Zalando or Thoughtworks? Read the article below for the details of our reasoning and benefits of Tech Radar by Apptension.

0:00
0:00
Why We Created Tech Radar? The Ins and Outs of Our Open-Sourced Tech Solution
Why We Created Tech Radar? The Ins and Outs of Our Open-Sourced Tech Solution

Tech Radar 2.0 is our recently published creation for exploring all of the technologies, methods, and tools used at Apptension. The tool is available on our website for potential clients to take a look in which areas we have more expertise and find out more about our projects. But, we also have the code open-sourced. Yep, that's right, you can find it on GitHub and take the code to create your own tech radar just as it is! 

However, this blog post is not about it. It's about coming to the idea of our Tech Radar, sharing it for the public, and keeping it up-to-date. So, let's dive right into it. 

The Inspiration

Back in 2018, we looked at the idea of Tech Radar, popularized by Thoughtworks. We asked ourselves - "how cool is that?!" We did even more research just to find one more tech radar from Zalando - a completely open contribution.

So, the idea of maintaining the up-to-date radar of trendy IT technologies and tools inspired us immensely. And inspired to the extent that we felt the urgent need to create our own. And to make it accessible to everyone! 

It was actually the easiest way to get out of the dark and show people what really drives us - being able to share our own expertise with the public, exchange ideas, and help independent developers improve. 

The First Release 

We were never "afraid" (as some companies still are) that someone would just steal the know-how. We hugely believe that the evolution of our industry comes from open-knowledge - open source projects that move the needle and help all of us grow. 

Quickly after our initial idea, our core developer Patryk adopted the Tech Radar (based on Zalando's project) and shared it with our fellow developers and clients on Github.

It was the very first variant of the radar, which we started using for recruitment and the clients. They totally loved it, however, the Tech Radar was still hidden from the public eye. But after years of successful stories about the Tech Radar, we decided to release our own application to the public - it's free. 

The Benefits of Having a Tech Radar

There were many reasons that pushed us towards creating our own tech Radar, but there were two crucial benefits we identified for ourselves: 

Building trust with the customers 

  • Customers who want specialized services can crawl Tech Radar to find out if you would be a great partner for them.
  • TechRadar is the easiest way to get your future customers acquainted with your technical stack - tools and methodologies you use to execute the work on the highest level.
  • If you are working with technical experts (such as CTOs), they will easily find out what your real technical offer is.

Transparency for candidates and employees about what stack they'll be working with

  • Support when picking technology for new projects
  • A common direction of technologies and toolset for our employees 
  • Assessment of the whole portfolio in terms of maturity 
  • A standardized method to assess new technologies
  • A way to spot gaps/training needs
  • Fostering knowledge-sharing and autonomy in decision-making processes

So, Why Did We Decide to Create Our Own Tech Radar? 

It seems that there are other cool radars out there, so why care and spend months of time to create one from scratch? Well, apart from the previously mentioned benefits that were already a significant push for action, there were some other key reasons that motivated Apptension to document its technologies for the public and update them regularly. And here they are: 

It’s a contribution to the open-source community

Since Zalando's radar was born, a few years have passed by. We believe that with the current state of front-end technologies, you can create a more unique and personalized experience. 

At Apptension, even internal projects can be helpful to other communities. Thus, we decided to contribute to the developer’s community with a refined open-source application.

Design consistency & interactivity

Apptension cares about product design, motion design, and interactivity of the apps - we basically cannot stand when something is not looking nice or is loading too slow... 

For example, with widely used technologies like React, you can achieve a very fine level of modularity and detail that translates to speed and interactivity of the apps. 

We also wanted to keep a level of personalization - like our own branding colors or logo. And that’s only possible if we crafted our own radar - fully unique. 

Responsive web experience

All of us use smartphones - and so do our clients, candidates, and employees. The Zalando's tech radar was, unfortunately, a desktop-only app that was not scaling properly on smaller devices. So, we knew from the start that ours would be mobile-optimized. 

Easy moderation

Another point with Zalando's tech radar was that its maintenance was a big hassle for us. Every time we needed to update the list with new technology, we had to use the precious human resources to deploy the app with the updates.

So, we decided to change that by enabling our editors to update the radar directly in Contentful - a headless CMS with powerful features. 

Modern stack

As we live and breathe technology, we couldn't leave the application without a set of tools we use on a daily basis. The core is based on Typescript with React, Ramda, Redux, Sagas, or D3… more neat tools we've used you will find in packages.json :)

Not only for developers!

We've spotted great potential in enhancing Tech Radar. In fact, we wanted it to be a tool for all Production teams - together with Product Management, Quality Assurance, Front-end, Backend, and Design. 

We added a feature to let the other teams add their methodologies and tools, which just made our Radar more receptive and not only tech-oriented. 

Now, it can be proudly called: The Tech Radar by Apptension.

The Features of Tech Radar by Apptension 

We wanted to stand out from the other radar creators, and as a result Tech Radar by Apptension has: 

  • Technologies in 4 categories and 4 adoption levels
  • Search to filter out elements on the radar
  • Filtering by adoption levels and teams who use specific technologies/tools
  • Details view with logo, description, alternatives, and links
  • Mobile support

How To Approach the Vetting Process

Tech Radar is something that must be kept as up-to-date as possible, so the vetting process is one of the most crucial things when you have one. Let's see how Thoughtworks, Zalando, and what we, as Apptension took over for our own vetting process: 

  • At Zalando, it's maintained by the Technologist Guild (app. 25 senior technologists) during their monthly meetings. The radar is based on the average of their votes. It's also accompanied by a collection of summaries of listed technologies (description, usage history, risks). All teams are encouraged to challenge the tech radar and provide feedback. 
  • Thoughtworks recommends gathering people (senior staff members) twice a year to update it. Everyone uses post-its to write their nominees for each quadrant (category) & sticks them on the whiteboard in an appropriate ring. The notes are grouped. As a group, they discuss each technology, whether it should remain on the radar, and where. Someone writes a few-sentence description about each decision. For existing entries - discuss whether they should be moved/faded/re-blipped.
  • At Apptension, we revalidate Tech Radar with our senior Managers. Once per quarter, they are invited to update the current stack with tools they used in the projects.

Long story short…

Tech Radar by Apptension is a precious creation - an idea we borrowed from the industry leaders, and got it to the next level with the efforts of the best minds from our company. 

You can see our Tech Radar in action: https://radar.apptension.com/ 

Or check out the open-source radar on GitHub: https://github.com/apptension/tech-radar

Zbigniew Czarnecki
Zbigniew Czarnecki
CEO
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