- 24 years at HP in engineering, engineering management, and general management
- Led teams working on emerging technologies and enterprise mobility strategy
- Designed, developed or built HP's Cooltown innovation centers in Singapore, London, Palo Alto and elsewhere.
- Developed and marketed HP's VerSecure encryption technology and represented HP as encryption policy expert in meetings with the White House, U.S. Congress, FBI, Departments of Defense, Justice and Commerce
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Software and Technology Companies: From Legacy to the Future
- Many small- to medium-sized companies are at risk for the simple reason that everyone is not on the same page, with the same vision, and the same understanding of the plan moving forward.
- Unless you have all stakeholders on the same page, with a shared plan and vision, you’re not going to get anywhere. In many companies of this size one often hears the salesperson say that the product people aren’t listening to him. The product people say that the salespeople don’t know what customers really want. It is certainly not whatever the sales people say that the customers want.
The marketing person wants to sell something that does not exist. So does the salesperson, by the way. The salesperson may even be selling things that don’t exist. “Oh, the product will certainly do that,” he or she says. But no. It doesn’t do that.
Moving forward into the future implies a common goal and a plan to get there. It is surprising how many companies do not have even this basic level of coordination.
- Companies resist change; in many companies, this change management challenge is steep.
- In most cases, people do not like change. But moving from legacy offerings into your future is about changing the product. It is also about changing the way you sell the product, the way you service customers, etc. When a company has made the transition from its legacy products and services to new offerings, it will most likely need to change again due to new circumstances and new challenges.
A great deal of the transition from legacy offerings to the future is about change management, particularly the people portion of the equation. Getting your team ready for change is a key success factor that is often overlooked.
- Many companies try to develop products in isolation from customers.
- If you build it does not mean that they will come. Define where your company wants to go starting from where it is. Engage with customers directly in order to determine if your thinking is correct or not. Break your offering down into bite-sized steps, and engage with your customers directly with respect to each of these steps.
The transition from a legacy product into the future is often driven by limitations in the current product. So it makes sense to work closely with customers and have a process for working with them, asking them to prioritize the small changes you’re going to make to your existing product. Start making relatively fast prototypes that incorporate proposed changes to the product asking your customers prioritize those fixes. This gives the customer a sense of ownership and shows responsiveness to the customer’s concerns.
- Defining the future is tricky, because people’s opinions change.
- Things happen. Times change, technologies change, and people change. In six or nine months customers have changed their minds about what they want. Besides, customers do not always tell you everything, even when you have the channels in place to listen to them.
At the other extreme end of the spectrum is the company that designs what they think customers want without sufficient engagement with them to find out if the product is the right one. The future is a moving target. But the company with its ears to the ground will fare better than the company with its head in the sand.
- Many efforts to modernize offerings rise or fall on team dynamics.
In a small- to medium-sized company, moving legacy products into the future involves the entire management team and close coordination between functions. Issues related to trust, authority, accountability and high-performance teamwork are essential pieces of building a team that will move into the future.
It’s easy, for example, for the salespeople to drive the company’s priorities, but they will tend to look at the immediate future. The management team needs to take into account the longer term as well. Do not underestimate the importance of good team dynamics.