As a CEO, it’s very easy to get caught up in the every day details of managing your business and forget to look at the bigger picture (that’s why we’re here, by the way). And, the picture these days is gigantic, complex, and in perpetual motion.
This week, I’m happy to welcome the leaders of Mindspan Systems, Inc., a very fast-growing software development company here in Atlanta. I have their CEO, Tarun Talwar, and CTO, Chris Curry on the show. We talk about ways you can implement new technologies, the Internet of Things, the importance of good business in technology, and finding ways not to be left behind in the fast moving world of tech.
With everything you have going on as a successful mid-market CEO, it can be easy to get sucked into dealing with what’s in front of you – but that’s not enough. Your job is to move forward with strategy and vision, and in today’s world, understanding the IoT is a key part of that.
Know the Internet of Things
As you may already know, the Internet of Things is essentially a connection of devices. Says Curry, “It’s making everyday things smarter, and the reason that we can do that is because technology gets smaller, it gets cheaper and it gets miniaturized every single year.” You can already set your house to connect to your phone. When you get close to home it can turn on lights, or adjust temperature, accordingly. Eventually, your grocery list might be created based on your fridge measuring levels of milk or eggs, and sending them directly to the grocery store so they are waiting for you on your way home from work. This ability to connect has endless business applications, so knowing a bit about the world of it can help you make powerful strategic decisions for your business.
If you want a deeper primer on the IoT, check out this article from Business Insider.
Why it Matters
Says Talwar, “I think most business people in business communities have still not fully grasped and comprehended the fundamental implications of this shift.” It is, he says, reorganizing the industry in very basic ways, that can be easy to miss – but missing them can cost you a lot.
It matters because it’s everywhere. The absolute fabric and landscape of the way we do business and the way customers interact with products is shifting completely. Says Curry, “If you’re not at least having some kind of ear to that trend, and that technology then you’re really missing out. Because even if you don’t think it applies to your business, it’s just really up to you to expand your horizons on what your product offering is, and see how this technology can possibly apply because it’s just definitely going to keep exploding.”
It simplifies your world. It may seem the Internet of Things is making things more complex, but looking from another angle, it simplifies them greatly. By working with a cloud-based system, technologies are becoming more affordable, so smaller companies are able to afford and manage highly complex technologies. Says Curry, “They don’t have to maintain that infrastructure, and they don’t have to maintain the latest software version. It’s simply subscribe to something, and they’re going to get automatic updates, and their users are going to be much happier.”
It makes it easy for smaller companies to have unique solutions. The connection of devices, software and data makes it easier for companies to develop unique software solutions for their customers. Because software is cloud based, less software is being purchased outright. Companies can pay monthly for a service while they are using it, allowing lower costs and more options. When software is developed specifically for a company, the overall investment is lower because developers no longer need to purchase expensive servers, and can use existing cloud based technologies as a basis for unique solutions.
It brings in more customers. Customers are changing right along with the changes in business. Things move faster in their world. If a customer walks in and you are helping another customer, they are likely to walk back out again and find service with another vendor. If you’ve provided a kiosk, or some other way for them to take the first steps towards having their needs met, they are more likely to stay. This goes for web locations as well – the smoother the customer experience, the more likely they are to purchase from you. And, technology is at the center of that in today’s world.
Know the Risks
Having everything so intricately connected makes life easier in many ways, and with that comes a new set of risks and vulnerabilities. Talwar gives the example of medical equipment. Hospitals are linking their monitors in a way that patients can be monitored, and data collected, from a central location. With the connections, this means that if one machine is hacked into, all the machines become vulnerable. As you are moving forward into this brave new world, don’t forget to be aware of the downside, and protect yourself from risks. Make security a high priority.
Get a Good Translator
Curry says his CTO title could just as easily mean “Chief Translating Officer.”
Says Talwar, “Business and technology people, they don’t speak the same language very often, and I think it is unreasonable to expect business people to speak technology jargon or understand technology. If they have to do that, it doesn’t solve the purpose of our existence.” Finding someone who can understand technology, but relate it to non-tech folks as well, is incredibly valuable. Talwar and his team consider the ability to bridge that gap critical to their success.
Have someone like this on staff, or as a ready consultant – or work with companies that are good at making technology accessible.
Good Business Still Matters
Says Talwar, “We technology professionals have to be careful not to push technology for the sake of technology. Sometimes the answer lies somewhere else and we have to be alive to that possibility also.”
It is important to know how your life is made easier by the connection of devices, but old-school good business matters too. Don’t get caught up in the glitter and glitz of exciting technology, and forget that it’s there to serve a purpose. It needs to fill the needs of your customers.
Technology and the Internet of Things will increasingly be a source of solutions for you, but they won’t be the only ones. Says Talwar, “I think we also have to be aware that sometimes the only solution is not technology.” When Talwar and his team start working with customers, they approach it from a solution-based model, looking at desired outcome and current processes. “We have actually had projects with our customers where we tweaked their processes, and where we changed the way they do their business in subtle ways and that solved their problems without really needing any technology solution. Now, we probably lost some business there…but I think we gained their trust and we built a client for life.”
Says Talwar, “We are not in the business of software development. We are in the business of solving business problems, and enabling business growth.” As a CEO, this is a great mindset from which to operate. While you need to be aware of the intricate and widespread way technology is transforming the business world, making your customers lives better is still the endgame.