What is Strategic vs. Tactical?

Over the last couple of years the term strategic and tactical has become more apparent to me, this is probably because people have talked about the need for strategic software solutions against the need for tactical software solutions.

I’ve been pondering what this actually means to me! What impact does a tactical solution have on the end user? What does a strategic solution have on an end user? My gut feeling is that the answer would be nothing.

So let’s flip the question around, because I believe the term is coined by developers/management. It may even be an excuse for not doing certain practises. A tactical solution is a quick fix; with very light weight Project Management around it, there may not be time to do any tests and the whole attitude is doing whatever it takes to deliver with the least amount of effort. A strategic solution has PM’s, BA’s and Project Management around the solution. This makes it strategic because there is more governance. We’d prefer to take our time on this project because of its strategic importance.

The definition for strategy is:

  • “A word of military origin refers to plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal.” or;
  • “Highly important to an intended objective”

The definition for tactical is:

  • “Less of a long-term significance than strategic operations”

From briefly wiki-ing and searching on the web, the terms “strategic” & “tactical” seem to have their history in the military. Strange that software development has adopted these words, my view is that there meaning has been modified incorrectly for software development.

If you were to apply these words to software development, maybe they should have a different meaning to what I’ve seen. So here is my 50p’s worth. The strategy is where the overall “architecture” of the company is going – i.e. we want everything to be SOA. The actual implementation – writing of code is tactical – i.e. we will implement this through a RESTFul service using WCF.

Both the development of the application and the overall “architecture” of the system should be aimed to align closely with what the customer actually wants.

The customer probably doesn’t care what the strategy is – they probably only care what the tactical delivery is!?

2 thoughts on “What is Strategic vs. Tactical?”

  1. Tactical should always be a step on the road to strategic delivery of the end goal.

    We all know this isn't always the case however! 🙂

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