Top Mistakes Tech Execs Make

As an expert in the tech field, I get to speak at top conferences all over the world. My work includes everything from training developers and architects how to write code that is sustainable, modular and scalable to advising executives how to be more successful using the least amount of resources and time. By day, I run a company of technology experts who help my clients achieve success in software development projects, which include big data and web applications, native mobile apps, cloud, virtual reality etc. Basically, you name a thing in software and we do it.

My team is structured such that they have the luxury of working under my guidance, completely on their own or under the direction of the client. We are fortunate to be very successful at what we do. So much so, that we are able to talk about the success rate of our projects while our competitors usually avoid that conversation. Most of our competitors happen to be billion-dollar companies and, not quite surprisingly, lack the kind of talent we have. Our competitors somehow give the impression that they are in the business of body shopping and that developers are nothing but a commodity. For these particular reasons, I truly believe our company does not have much competition and even though I've had really good offers to sell the company, I have not met the right buyer yet. The reason is simple: my company doesn’t work like the others in the industry and it can’t be run like they are either.

This post will be limited to executives in Fortune 1000 companies. My advice is obtained from my vast experience working with international clients and others in the tech industry. I will be discussing only the most common issues that are plaguing our industry currently. Please note that while I am using real-life examples, immense care has been taken to change the names, timing, country and other relevant information so as to make sure the identities of the people discussed here are protected.

Mistake #1 Isolation: Most executives rise up the chain for a few reasons: talent, hard work, lack of competition, or high attrition rate of peers. With this rise, comes the obvious problem of isolation. As the saying goes, the top is never crowded. Imagine airline company X and a flight attendant who worked his way up to become a project manager, then software development manager and finally the CTO. This seems an unlikely scenario; however, imagine this person was personable, had some big wins attributed to him and had the patience and perseverance to go against the tide. Now, it's very likely that there are at least some peers who may not be very happy with this. They may quit or lose their motivation to make the team successful.

The simple reason is people start asking: who is getting the credit? If they work hard and the team is successful, the CTO is surely getting the credit. This is a problem from the teams' perspective since they feel they are contributing yet not getting any of the accolades. However, the bigger problem is when the executive begins isolating himself because he has lost trust in the team of peers below him. Imagine a VP (vice president) of IT, a VP of software development, VP of program management and VP of support all who were once his peers now reporting to him. If they had colluded against him in the past, individually or as a team, he may be prone to distrusting them. Once the executive begins isolating himself and losing touch with his team, it is only a short time before he will begin making decisions that are not in the company’s best interest and then an even shorter time before he is let go.

Mistake #2 Closing External Doors: You could say that the secret of consulting is all about predicting the future. In late 2007, I contacted some executives from a company so I could help them succeed with their latest project. They were trying to build software that would be more scalable and used on newer technologies. All they were looking for were good application and web developers. My personal contact let me know that they’d had attrition of top achievers as he was someone who had been able to win the political battle and rise up the corporate ladder. The executive didn't have much trust in the internal team, so he decided to outsource the bulk of it. With recession an arm’s length away, it made no sense to pay the BCC (Big Consulting Company) rate of $250 an hour plus expenses (per on-site resource).

It made more sense to work with a company like mine that had a high success rate and less expensive rates, but nonetheless, the executive felt safer going with the BCC and paying the premium hourly rates. At this point of time I have to give kudos to the sales people at BCCs who came up with a concept of the blended rate. The idea of a blended rate is if you take 90 developers from India and 10 from US at a blended rate of $85 an hour, then the US resource is at $250 an hour, the resource from India will cost roughly $66 an hour. The client is happy paying less, of course, but is quality sacrificed? Let's see.

Continue reading... Top Mistakes Tech Execs Make - Part 2

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