The Challenge of Competitive Technology


Software is eating the world 

This means that technology is increasingly important to every industry.

But companies vary in their efficacy with getting value from technology.

Why do efforts to use technology often underperform?

Many companies use “captive technology” — tech teams inside non-tech companies. These craftspeople making apps, services, APIs, and devices aren’t in their natural habitat: technology companies that know how to hire, nurture, manage, and create strategies that allow technology talent to thrive, ship products on time, and through rigorous experimentation, find product-market fit. Most companies have difficulty with this because management’s expertise lies elsewhere, and because the culture in their industry is not conducive to shepherding successful technology efforts.

Some companies use consulting, but the consulting business model has perverse incentives to scale their employees’ billable hours. The culture and expertise of a consultancy is not equivalent to product development. Non-tech companies have difficulty managing technical consultancies, because as with captive technology, management has just as much trouble managing the vendors as the captive technologists. Consulting is great for bringing in outside expertise and for project execution. However, that approach fails to inspire the obsessive creativity needed to design, implement, and even maintain technology.

Companies try to use off the shelf software and cloud services but find that the workflows and experiences of those systems don’t match their business. So, they customize (again suffering the fundamental problems of captive technology or consulting) and find the customizations clunky, ineffective, and often avoided by the employees who they hoped would adopt these “solutions.” Worse, when upgrading to a later version of the off-the-shelf product or service, they find that their customizations don’t work, and they are either blocked from upgrading, or find themselves starting the whole cycle again.

As a result of these problems, most attempts at competitive technology fail.