BizBuyer CTO Brings Order to Online Upstart

Early last summer when Ed Godycki stepped into the CTO role at Santa Monica, Calif.-based Inc., he found a company in the throes of what he calls "pandemonium growth mode."

Which is why he took the job. "I was the gray-haired technology guy whose task was to steer the company onto a path of controlled growth," Godycki says. "It was just the opportunity I was looking for."

BizBuyer, founded in late 1998, is a business-to-business Internet company that helps other companies find the right services on the Web. For example, a business might use the site to find IT services, a graphic designer, or a professional recruiting agency. The core of BizBuyer's offering is a database and a proprietary matching engine that qualifies sellers of services and hooks them up with the right buyers.

Godycki first heard about the company through some well-connected sources.

"I know some venture capitalists and angel investors," Godycki explains. "I asked them to recommend a startup that needed more technology discipline, and they suggested BizBuyer."

But it is only recently that Godycki would have considered taking such a position.

"In my previous job as vice president and director of business development of E-Citi, an advanced technology division of [New York-based] Citigroup, I spent a lot of time looking at dot-coms," Godycki says. "And one of the things I learned was that the disdain for the strong management type of technologist was vanishing."

Kneko Burney, an analyst at Cahners In-Stat Group, in Scottsdale, Ariz., has seen the same thing.

"This is definitely a trend -- cotton-tops coming into the dot-coms," Burney says. "Reality has started to set in to this market."

The reason for this, Godycki says, is simple. "[Dot-com startups] that wanted to make money for real saw that the software needed to be predictable, controllable, ironclad, and industrializable," he explains. "Suddenly, there was a demand for guys like me who have worked in environments like Citigroup, where they eat your young if you don't behave."

In other words, the days of freewheeling code creation -- putting up a Web site and seeing who salutes -- were over. "It was time to get serious about technology development," Godycki says. "The skills you need to create brand-new technology are different from those required to develop and maintain it. My skill is not in creation. I am a strategic software guy, not a tactical one."

A lot of the dot-coms were started by the tactical leaders, Godycki says, which is why the other sort -- usually older, seasoned workers, battle-tested on the global corporate front -- were not originally wanted.

BizBuyer, on the other hand, was ready for this kind of leadership.

"They understood what they wanted the technology to do, but were not quite ready to make it happen," Godycki says. "They realized they needed a more strategic view."

'Disaster' management

When Godycki joined the company in June, all the critical software components were in place, but it was "a disaster," he says. Code was not well documented, and because several developers had left, there was a lot of unidentified code lying around and no one could tell what it was supposed to do.

As any software developer will tell you, code documentation is not a fun job, "but it is also not a lot of fun for the people who pay the bills when they find out half their software is a mysterious black box," Godycki adds.

Since then, Godycki has either rewritten or identified the mystery code. But there have been other changes as well, and not all of them were smooth, he explains.

"Changing the culture here was not painful for me," Godycki says. "But it was for some of our folks. We had to make a few career decisions for the people who were not going to make the transition."

This transition from raw development mode to one of controlled growth took most of the summer.

"I have done this before. This is about how long it usually takes," Godycki says. "One thing you have to keep in mind is that this kind of transition is not just about technology. It is a corporate makeover that is driven by technology."

There are clear signs that let you know when the transition is more or less complete, Godycki explains. "You know you have turned the corner when people start asking you for documentation, want to see priority lists, or look at specifications. Then you know the pandemonium growth phase is over."

Scoping out the future

With this transition largely over, Godycki has started looking ahead.

"We would like to make the BizBuyer site a more complete Web service," he says. "Technically, this will involve making more use of XML and Microsoft's SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] standard. We can also pick up some projects that were dropped in the middle of the road when things were so chaotic."

In-Stat Group's Burney likes the company's strategy.

"BizBuyer is a good example of a dot-com that is trying to enhance a traditional business process rather than replace it with something new," Burney says. "I think this approach has some real advantages."

As he moves BizBuyer into its next growth phase, Godycki will also have time to make the CTO job into more of what he believes it is supposed to be.

"A CTO like me is in a very different role than the traditional CIO of yesteryear," Godycki says. "Typically, the CIO sat behind a wall, and it was a tortured process to get any new development from behind that wall. My job is to turn that wall into a door."

Ed Godycki,

Job title: CTO

Reports to: Bernard Louvat, CEO.

Mission: To move the company's technology from a Phase I entrepreneurial environment to a Phase 2 growth-oriented one, and to represent its technology to business clients.

Education: Bachelor of science degrees in economics and management from California Lutheran University, in Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Career path: Northrop Aerospace, 1975 to 1977; vice president, chief of staff to the chairman at California First Bank, 1977 to 1985; vice president and director of business development at E-Citi, a Citigroup division, 1985 to 2000.

Biggest challenge: "I have to create a new persona for the technology team. We need to switch from rampant development mode to a controlled growth mode."

Favorite escape: Travel -- "Right now, we like Cambodia and Vietnam."

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