SAN MATEO (07/31/2000) - HELP WANTED: As e-commerce revolutionizes business everywhere, we're looking for that one-in-a-million CTO visionary to lead us from our stable yet antiquated business to e-business nirvana. Our company needs a CTO to provide technical leadership and strategic vision. As a member of the executive team and in hopes that the CTO will have what he/she needs to do the job, the CTO reports directly to the President/CEO. The CTO will manage all aspects of the technology architecture. The CTO will build and manage a tough, talented technology and Web development team, responsible for building our new e-business.
My favorite line in many job descriptions, including those for CTOs, is "The ability to work with other people is a must." Hello, but anyone who thinks business is strictly about technology and not about people and process is not employed these days. The CTO is the business driver, the people driver, and the process driver. This multi-faceted drive produces results that successfully move businesses to the Net.
Conflict is inherent in this type of business. I engage in conflict everyday while moving InfoWorld.com along. Conflict is built into most businesses making the move to e-business because many traditional organizations were crafted to minimize conflict and maintain stability. In moving to e-business, you must inspire conflict and ride instability. Don't let old rules stand in the way; accept and embrace what's not an everyday fact of life -- CTOs are agents of change.
Your efforts to permit and engage in conflict empower the business. The most successful e-businesses are battlegrounds of conflict. Conflict moves us to new ways of doing business. Conflict becomes the inspirational force behind the change. It's a sign that your business is innovative and inventive.
However, it's important to understand what's driving the conflict. Beforehand, analyze what's being protected and what you're attempting to change. Is it the existing process, people preservation, culture, or something else?
More often than not, it's the speed of change that many resist. If your ideas are highly regarded, but timing is the issue, then communicate. Engage, educate, and persuade others that time is of the essence. Include senior executive management in critical technology decisions. There's no need or time to build committees to make decisions. It's important to be decisive. Your customers need you now, and if you're not there, they're gone. On the Web, this is quite easy to prove; most research indicates that customers easily turn away from less than satisfying experiences.
If it's not speed related, it's often dollar related. Today's dot-coms are consuming more dollars while posting unimpressive profits, if any. In environments of conflict like these, empathy is empowering. There are plenty of resource-demanding initiatives outside the dot-com arena that may lay dormant as a result of dot-com investments. It's important to recognize and relate to other initiatives and demands. Keep in mind that many business leaders are focused on making a profit and retaining the core customer. As a technology leader, you must rebuild the company and extend the customer base.
If the resistance is not speed or dollar related, it may come from fear. Fear is common when businesses change. Again, communication is the antidote. Do your best to define the issues and invite healthy discussions. Educate others in how technology is moving the company and the vital role they play in creating change. I'm always impressed and pleased to hear others outside the technology group chat about how technologies such XML, content management, databases, and more are enabling their business.
Laura Wonnacott is vice-president of InfoWorld.com.