Legacy CEOs who simply slap a digital layer over an existing process are not disrupting.
Sure, it does digitise your business, improving your cost management and processing capabilities, but this means you are not:
- Transforming your business
- Becoming more digitally competitive
- Future-proofing your business against digitally-enabled competition.
You have not really changed things, have you?
The real disrupter is the tech CEO.
They get technology and know-how to use it to disrupt and build a competitive advantage in a market that’s hard to compete against.
They understand new technology and how to use it to modernise their business to their advantage. And they get how it redefines your business model and creates new opportunities.
And I think there are three key skills that define them.
The Three Core Tech CEO Skills
Here are my 3 ‘think and do differently’ elements that define what makes a tech CEO different:
- Products and Platforms are built on “As-a-Service” Technology.
- Cross-functional teams replace traditional hierarchal competencies (New Ways of Working that go beyond Agile and Remote Work).
- A Swarm Style Business Model.
1. Platforms and Products build and Use “As-a-Service” Capacity
Businesses like Google, Facebook, and Amazon typically will not have a CIO or CTO. These businesses focus on building a platform and leveraging AI to build and maintain products.
The Redundant CIO and CTO
CIOs and CTOs are replaced with product owners and engineering leads. Who leverage technology as a service. There is a lovely analogy of Pizza as a service that illustrates this in the image below:
(You can read more in this short article: Here)
You can see how your approach, skills requirement and output get redefined. More importantly, the tech CEO can use the As A Service Capacity in dynamic, flexible ways that outcompete the competition.
A simple example: Why would you build your own data centre today when you can use any one of the hyper scalers? They cost a fraction less, the technology is never redundant, and you win through diminishing costs of Moore’s law.
2. Cross-functional teams replace traditional hierarchal competences
Building products means that you work in a new way beyond Agile and Remote Work. Through feedback loops, you work as a squad with diverse skills and the capacity to deliver products, constantly adapting to a better product-market fit.
Indeed, the agile approach sits at the centre of this! You are:
- Running sprints,
- Delivering against a backlog,
- Strategically guided by a product owner,
- Operationally managed through a project manager or scream master,
- And the customer’s input is an always-on process.
But I think this approach is more than just agile and remote work.
A company has its own way of doing things, its own way of creating value. This is what makes the tech CEO so unique. They get the value exchange between business and customer and work hard on building a way of working that exposes even more value.
They replace the traditional, hierarchical structure of functional skills with cross-functional teams. And that means they are building a unique business.
3. A Swarm Style Business Model
Suppose you are running cross-functional teams built on a process that delivers unique value to your customers. In that case, you are (or should be) running a network of teams rather than a functional hierarchy. This model has many names and variations, but we call it our Swarm business model.
The Harmony of Collective, Collaborative, Cooperative Movement.
In this type of business model, teams or squads are created to solve long or short term problems or to run and deliver against backlog (like ongoing marketing content). They collapse again when they have solved the problem or completed their backlog.
But what differentiates these cross-functional teams is their ability to connect to different teams and work in an open, collaborative environment.
My most significant insight into this approach is about open-sourcing every bit of information possible to share. You may be shouting that will give away your competitive advantage. I disagree for two simple reasons:
- a unique business and you do you, and
- you can’t copy the way you work as you have a unique set of individuals making decisions that are often unseen.
You need a clear mission or goal that everyone can get behind. They focus their individual efforts (which makes you even more unique and almost hard to copy).
By doing this, you build the ability and capacity for your staff to make decentralised decisions. This is where the resilience and adaptability of the business grow.
In conclusion, this is hard to do. There will be some things you disagree with me about, and that’s a good thing. What you will need to build as a tech CEO will be unique to you. So over to you! Go and build and change the world!