Technology Strategy Has Nothing To Do With Technology

While researching Telecoms that are breaking out of the norms of acceptable rates of innovation, I came across Cox Communications and their impressive CTO, Kevin Hart.  He is really shredding the envelope on the industries status quo[1].

I've had personal sessions with other CTOs and executives of the large Telecoms in North America and most are trying to be innovative for internal business cases, but I find that Hart is really shifting the corporate technology strategy for the industry.

Reading about Hart, I was reminded of a principal that I've worked under for quite some time, and it has both unleashed me, as well as stumbled me.  Hart clearly hints at it in two statements attributed to him:

  • "Half of technology is probably anything but technology." [1]
  • "It is important to understand the business drivers. All too often, IT leaders do not focus enough attention on that." [2]

In my past, I was, what a 13yr reunion with a colleague reminded me of, an outright code monkey.  At first, I felt a slit of resentment, because in my mind, even back then, I had realized that while coding amazingness right out of thin air was awesome, the world doesn't revolve around technology and never will.  It revolves around living and the business of living.  But I truly respect the colleague and knew that he spoke from his heart and experience working with me; I realize that back then, my only way to express that budding understanding was through my profession as a hands-in-deep Dir. of "Technology" for a government-targeting cloud start-up based on technologies that I designed and mostly wrote.  Luckily, I haven't coded anything professionally in 10 years, other than side jobs to keep me abreast of the latests.

Recently, while considering opportunities for using my talents more effectively on a global scale, I met with some VPs of a global technology group.  The conversations were, while all interviews, mostly focused on my thoughts on specific technologies and my experience using technologies for the sake of the technology.  What I found most interesting, is that they, seemingly, were not at all interested in what was made possible - what markets were empowered, what lives where changed and how, what costly assumption was eradicated, what internal operational efficiencies were achieved in tandem - with the technologies under my belt in relation to their current and possible businesses, and they didn't seem to associate technology-agility solely as an aspect of business innovation.  Ugh.  In the end, in post conversations, the concept of "lite on the technology side" swung the door closed for me; and I'm happy to be a technology-consultant for them hired for a business case to help innovate their technologies versus a technology-leadership employee hired to shape their technology vision (an uphill climb that had too many entrenched obstacles to be fun).  And here is why I think Technology Strategy Has Nothing To Do With Technology:

Technology is nothing more than a tool.

Just like a hammer, or a scanning tunnelling microscope, or an adaptive-overlay communications network, without something to build, see, or communicate, respectively, the tools don't have a purpose in life or business.  Now, of course, there are organizations in the business of building better tools, and in some cases, even creating new industries or life use-cases right out of thin air that is in the market gap that their new tool bridges.  But, it all still ends up as a business or life case driving the value and implementation of the technology as a vehicle to a tangible and/or intangible result not possible of the tool alone, but entirely possible, almost always in some way, without the tool at all.  And, in the situations where the technology birthed the use cases, the technology does not continue to control the existence of the resulting use cases, simply because the technology was a trigger to possible as a stepping stone, not the actual existence of possible.

Technology Strategy is 100% about Empowering Results in Business and Life.

For many years, I've learned to focus on usability, or experience, needs and how technology can fill those needs, or bridge the gap to other means of filling.  When a technology company focuses too much on the needs "of the technology" in a business, they will struggle with both internal and sales operations that wont be focused on the only thing that matters: who is going to use my technology to make their world amazing and how can I get my technology in front of them in the right context to shine the possibilities that likely only they can understand up-front.

The ones who buy/use technology either have an idea of where they are try to get in a road-map with it, or they are inspired by the technology to create a new idea with it.


Comment below, I'm always interested in hearing others' opinions.