ThoughtWorks Technology Radar Workshop

On 24th January, James Lewis (Principal Consultant) and Ian Cartwright (Technical Principal) of ThoughtWorks visited us at EMBL-EBI to help us create the organisation’s very first technology radar.


What is a tech radar?

It’s a snapshot of which technologies are upcoming and trendy, stable, and those in decline.  It is created every 6 months by ThoughtWorks, an IT consultancy.

The radar is split into:

  • Adopt
  • Trial
  • Assess
  • Hold

It also has quadrants covering different categories of technology, but the boundaries are often blurred:

  • Techniques
  • Tools
  • Platforms
  • Languages and frameworks

To explain more I refer you this article, webpage with a video and a podcast (inserted below):

We began the process of creating our own tech radar yesterday…


I sketchnoted the event for posterity.


The sketchnote of the workshop (below) shows the six steps that James and Ian used to help us create a radar.


The initial steps involved individuals posting their own ideas of which techniques, tools, languages and products they would like to see on the radar.


The next steps were potentially trickier, since James and Ian had to facilitate bringing many diverse ideas and perspectives into a single radar as the output.  To achieve this, teams first discussed their ideas as a group and posted them up to a matrix template (see the sketchnote below).  For the EMBL-EBI radar, the divisions and categories were adapted to include “retire” and “products”, so the overall options available were adopt, trial, assess, hold and retire.  And in the quadrants we had: techniques, tools, languages, etc. and “products“.  This is designed to capture third party offerings or other established tech that the organisation has, and needs to be considered to get a full snapshot.

Expert facilitation is needed to herd cats

Once each team had completed their own matrix of ideas using the template, the radar was compiled by individuals in turn suggesting their team’s idea to the whole room.

“If you want to speak put your hand up”, said Ian, “You will get your opportunity to speak!”

Many of us in the room had to be reminded of this policy during this phase of the workshop, but it really worked.  The only difficulty for Ian was to remember the order of the hands rising so people could be correctly queued.  One other useful trick during the collating stage was to re-write the post-it notes on the consolidated radar boards, so that the team boards remained in tact to be referred to later.


To complete the capture of the content for a ThoughtWorks-style radar you probably need 2 or 3 days, but we only had an afternoon.    With James and Ian’s help we made a great start, but we’ll be revisiting this exciting new approach again soon.  We’ll also be checking out the ready-to-go visualisation tools to display and share our radar with others.

Thank you again ThoughtWorks for James and Ian’s visit to us!  We hope to see you again soon.  And thank you to the participants for the energy and knowledge you brought to the discussion.


Daniel Vaughan and the Meetup Group “Genome Campus Software Craftsmanship Community”

EMBL-EBI Technical Seminars Programme for funding

ThoughtWorks for providing facilitation

Maria Bacadare, EMBL-EBI Events Organiser

Rodica Petrusevschi for the photos, EMBL-EBI External Relations


Why make a tech radar, and what is it? (

Build your own radar (

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