When you’ve spent a great deal of your life attempting to create value in the technology world, you tend to get an interesting perspective on life. Over the last forty years or so, the computer revolution has moved from “wouldn’t it be cool if…” to “developing solutions for integrated operational support.” The industry has matured from scattered groups of tech-savvy dreamers to operations-savvy businesspersons. This marriage of technology and management would have been useful in the late nineties when it seemed like labeling a company with the word “tech” brought visions of multi-millionaire investors and soaring stocks. Innovation without business perspective, though, is ultimately a recipe for failure, and success or failure in technology falls squarely on the business fundamentals side of the equation.
This isn’t to say that the technology lacks importance. I’ve made a career out of constant attention to development and innovation. You’re not going to find a more committed advocate for technology advancement than me. The problem is that those of us who focus on technology tend to do so at the exclusion of all else. How many times have you seen a techie rush into your office singing the praises of some new feature or functionality that really has no business impact at all? Excitement exists for the technological advancement rather than the value of the enhancement. A feature that isn’t used is wasted code, but how often does the real business implication of our work get lost in the challenge. We’re so busy trying to find out if we can do something that we forget to determine why we should do it in the first place.
You see it in more than the technology sector. Automotive elements, as seen on TV’s latest fix, and even the food industry flavors of the month all come and go. Technology, though, seems uniquely geared toward activity rather than action, toward busy-ness rather than business. Strangely, we can interview stakeholders to pull together a deep needs analysis. We can create elaborate and extensive flow charts and mind maps to drive software development. We can be remarkably organized while focusing on our immediate objectives. Why then do technology companies tend to dismiss the business issues we claim we’re here to enhance?
Ultimately, it’s too easy to fall into the failed thinking that suggests a product is the goal in and of itself. If you believe that your technology is the end and not the means to an end, you’re on dangerous ground. I’ve seen start-up after start-up that didn’t get past that initial stage. For the most part, the technology involved was interesting, even conceptually brilliant. However, the relationship of the technology to the business was lacking. It’s not surprising really. Too many companies create products for the IT Department instead of for the whole enterprise, and some don’t even do that well. If you’re in the technology world, are you minding your business?