Focus on being business-led, rather than technology-led

Focus on being business-led, rather than technology-led

Business -led, not technology-led

This is another one of my musings, but I think there’s a very important point to make. So, without further ado, welcome inside my head…

Now, I realise that coming from a fractional CTO, the headline above might look a little odd. I’m a fractional Chief Technology Officer, so surely I’m all about leading the charge with technology? Yes, that’s true. But I do it from a business standpoint, not a technology one.

I’m proud to be a ‘technologist’ – if that’s what you want to call me. So, I say this with all due respect to my fellow technologists. But if there are two things that we are stereotypically good at, they are; making things more complicated than they need to be, and getting caught up in new technology hype.

Making things more complicated than they need to be

I’m a big fan of the Tech Lead show on YouTube. Patrick tells it like it is (to say the least) and makes some very good common-sense points. The other day he was talking about how 37Signals (the makers of Basecamp) had launched a new email service called ‘Hey’. What grabbed Patrick’s attention (and subsequently mine) is the technology they used to build the ‘Hey’ service – it’s a little…old.

These days when we talk about web apps (which is partially what ‘Hey’ is), we talk about the cloud, micro services, lambdas, NoSQL, single page applications, event queues, non-monolithic systems and a tonne of other stuff. But the team at ‘Hey’ ignored all of this and went with a very traditional PHP and database combination. Technology we’ve had for 25 years.

Why? Because it works. Because there is nothing wrong with using a solid, established technology that’s not going to be retired anytime soon. Because there’s nothing wrong with playing to the strengths your team has. And because there’s nothing wrong with getting the job done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love micro services and lambdas. But as long as a solution is built in a way that’s manageable, maintainable and extensible, then what does it matter? If the technology isn’t ‘bad’ or about to be dropped, and the project is architected well (applies to any project), then why not go with what gets the job done?

Getting caught up in new technology hype

Technology is big business, so there’s always going to be a lot of marketing hype. It’s good to feel like we are using the latest shiny new toys. But (and I have been guilty of this), it’s easy to fall into a trap where we become technology-led rather than business-led.

As technology leaders (CTOs, CIOs, Heads of Technology etc) we should be looking at everything through the eye of the business. What are the problems and how can technology and processes solve these problems in the most effective and cost-efficient way?

Only last month I was reading about how the world is falling out of love with data scientists. Only 12 months ago a mediocre data scientist would be hired in a flash and earning six figures. But these days hiring has now slowed. Why? Well partially because there are many businesses which haven’t seen a return on their data science investments, because they didn’t ever really know what they were investing in!

By all-means be aware of what’s out there (as technologists that’s our job), but let’s try and keep things business focussed.Note: I only use data science as an example above. I’m involved in several data science projects and I’ve got nothing against data scientists…I love you guys 😊