Choosing and Executing a Strategy: A 4-Step Approach

Forget the military analogies. What do strategy, operations, and tactics look like inside a software development company?

Choosing and Executing a Strategy: A 4-Step Approach

In yesterday's post, I wrote about the differences among strategy, operations, and tactics:

  1. Strategy: the long-term vision for how we accomplish our goal
  2. Operations: large-scale projects in support of our strategy
  3. Tactics: day-to-day techniques we use to execute our operations

I used the example of Schwarzkopf's use of strategy during Operation Desert Storm in 1991.  At the end of that post, I promised a more relevant example today: my own business strategy.

Step 1. Identifying Opportunity

Back in 2020, I had been running Grandjean & Braverman as both business owner and lead developer.  

Most of our work was in developing and maintaining custom Microsoft Access applications.  We had written dozens of applications for several clients.  At the time, I had been developing professionally in Access, VBA, and SQL Server for 13 years.  I had an extensive VBA code library of custom functions and classes that I had written.  

Without question, our area of expertise was Microsoft Access.

At the same time, the software development world was moving away from Access.

Development trends were shifting:

  • From desktop to the web
  • From closed source to open source
  • From perpetual licenses to subscriptions (SaaS)

Microsoft Access was on the wrong side of each of those trends.

I was at a crossroads with my business.  Do I shift away from Access to one of the popular web frameworks?  That's what the conventional wisdom would have suggested.

Instead, I looked to history for a similar situation: a once-popular language still running critically important business software decades after it had fallen out of favor with the broader software development community.

COBOL was that language.

To this day, COBOL continues to run a small (but important) number of legacy systems.  As companies move off of COBOL, the number of jobs for COBOL developers continues to dwindle.  However, those companies that have not migrated away from COBOL likely have very good (and expensive) reasons not to.

The end result?  There are very few jobs for COBOL developers.  But those companies who do need COBOL development support are willing to pay top dollar for it.

I decided that the coming wave of retiring professional Access developers would bring about similar opportunities.


To summarize the opportunity (as I see it):

  • Access development had its heyday in the '90s and '00s
  • Many Access developers are reaching retirement age
  • Young developers are not taking up Access for software development
  • Lots of business-critical Access applications remain in use today

Given these facts, I strongly believe two things:

  1. Demand for Access developers will continue to decline, but the
  2. Supply of Access developers will decline even faster

When demand outpaces supply, prices (i.e., Access developer rates) inevitably rise.

Step 2. Choosing a Strategy

Having decided that a coming rapid decrease in supply would lead to a rise in rates for Access developers, I chose to double-down on my commitment to Access.

My goal was to become a recognized global Access expert to position Grandjean & Braverman as the premier provider of Microsoft Access solutions.

To achieve this goal, I settled on a three-part strategy:

  1. Establish credibility in the Access community
  2. Earn the Microsoft MVP award
  3. Attract premium Access-related opportunities

Notice that the above list is short on specifics.  That's intentional.  

Implementation is an operational concern, not a strategic one.

Step 3. Choosing Operations

There are many different ways I could have gone about establishing credibility in the Access community:

  • Be active on Access forums
  • Start a YouTube channel
  • Cultivate a social media presence
  • Launch a technical blog
  • Give in-person speeches at Access conferences
  • Start an email list
  • Create a weekly podcast

Guess which one I went with. 😁

One thing I'd like to note about the above list is that–all other things being equal–starting an email list is probably a better option than launching a technical blog.  HOWEVER, an email list would not have helped me establish my credibility as an Access expert.  

In other words, publishing a daily article on has been a major operation in support of my strategy of establishing crediblity in the Access community.

Here are some of the other operational things I've done to support my strategy:

  • Speaking at virtual Access conferences around the world
  • Curating a weekly roundup of all the new Access content available on the internet

Step 4. Tactics and Techniques

This is where the rubber meets the road.

What tools do I use to host my blog at  

How do I put together the Week-in-Review article?

  • A ProcessKit checklist to make sure I don't miss anything
  • A Power Automate flow to scrape article info from regularly updated Access websites
  • A script written in Go that pulls in YouTube data from Access-related channels
  • A folder of Elgato Stream Deck action buttons to provide quick access to frequently referenced files, websites, and date-specific text

How do I distribute my content beyond my website?

  • I use Zapier to automatically publish new article posts to Twitter/X, LinkedIn, Facebook, Medium (integration discontinued), Instagram
  • Ghost CMS provides an automated RSS page for every URL with a list of articles by simply appending /rss/ to the URL
  • An automated, RSS-based weekly email via MailerLite

The truth is most people (myself included) would rather spend countless hours implementing the latest and greatest tactic, rather than spend a single minute formulating a strategy that could really move the needle for their business.

Don't fall into that trap.

Final Thoughts

I should point out that I settled on my current strategy before I even bought the domain name  

The fact that I am one of 18 current Microsoft Access MVPs is not luck.  It's the result of a deliberate strategy and the operations and tactics I employed in pursuit of that strategy.*  

My strategy could ultimately prove unsuccessful.  

If that's the case, I will reassess why this strategy failed and come up with a new one.  In the meantime, though, the early returns are promising:

  • I established credibility within the Access community, which helped me to
  • Become an Access MVP, which led me to
  • Filling two of the three open slots we have in our Long-Term Care for Access premium service offering:
Long-Term Support for Access
Reliable Microsoft Access Developer Support For Your Business-Critical Applications

*I believe I am somewhat unique in my pursuit of the Access MVP award as an end in itself: most Access MVPs (and Microsoft MVPs generally) earned the award as a side effect of the generosity they demonstrate toward the Access community. Not me.  I pursued a specific strategy to earn that award.  That said, I like to think that I am also generous.

All original code samples by Mike Wolfe are licensed under CC BY 4.0