Quote of the month:
A goal without a plan is just a wish. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupér
Running a Tech Start Up is Like Managing an Enterprise IT Project
By Amanda Wilbur
It’s been said that everything in this world is about perspective. Often entrepreneurs get overwhelmed with the concept of running a business and the result is spinning wheels and no forward movement. However, remember that once you get past the initial corporate formalities of incorporation, setting up bank accounts, published website, etc., running a tech start up is much like managing an enterprise information technology (IT) project.
In one way or another practically every enterprise project needs to address the following areas:
• Leadership, management and development - Setting project development objectives and method to achieve these objectives, change management, managing the project development process, and making sure that the project moves along towards a successful completion.
• R&D (Research and Development) - Collecting and understanding information about customers needs and wants to determine methods for implement these requirements.
• Finance - Ensuring that sufficient fiscal means for the project development are available in a timely manner.
• Operations - Application production and services provided (maintenance and updates) are planned and scheduled.
• Marketing - Making sure that the broad customer base is aware of the new product and that service features and benefits are clearly available in printed materials or online.
• Sales and customer service - Actively selling the new product or service features and benefits existing and prospective customers. Ensuring that any new product and service needs are met feasibly.
• Human resources – Ensuring the right people are in the right positions so that there is availability of staff that is proficient at carrying out all the project tasks.
• IT - Ensuring that the right technology is available, functions as needed and produces the desired results.
The above list reflects the ideal administrative side of project development and management, and then comes practical application in the real world.
Be careful not to get wrapped up in the excitement of new gadgets or technology that you avoid losing out on success in your project. To avoid implementing new projects too quickly, stop and take the time to document a few things. Your project will have success when you know the starting place, have it documented, and when you tie the project goals with top business objectives.
Know your starting place! Your starting place may include collecting data beforehand on statistics of the key performance indicators or return on investment. It could be something as simple as how many widgets you made or how many service calls were answered in a given time. They seem like no-brainers but these numbers can be easy to miss and difficult to collect after the fact.
Jim Rohn says, “The most important question to ask on the job is not “What am I getting?” The most important question to ask is “What am I becoming?”” For starting new projects, specifically new technology, I would add that we should also ask, “Will what I become match my original objectives?”
It is vitally important to tie project goals with business objectives. Before starting any project or implementing a new technology you need to know which business objective you are working towards. For example, once you know that this technology project purpose is to assist you in the “Blue Ribbon Customer Service” objective then you can make the project goals connect to how much your customer service has improved through this new implementation.
Harvard Business Review’s Kaplan and Norton call it Mapping Strategic Themes in their article, Mastering the Management System (2008). They explain that a corporate strategy can be sliced into multiple themes, each with their own cause-and-effect relationship, and each associated with specific projects to meet the goals of those themes.
Lastly, it’s important to circle back after implementation to evaluate how the project performed against the plan. Lessons learned is not a cliché, it is an integral part of growth and improvement. You need to know the areas the project was successful, where it failed (because there will be failures) and how it can better next time.
It is no easy feat for CEO’s to manage a tech startup, much like managers have much to consider when overseeing an enterprise IT project. It makes all the difference to take the time to pause and reflect: Don’t jump into that next project too quickly. Avoid failed projects by taking time in the beginning. Verify that the end result matches the original objectives by tying them together through a strategic theme and then document again at the end. It takes a little extra time in the beginning but means being able to point to your project success in the end.
Amanda Wilbur has worked in Information Technology for nearly two decades including multi-million dollar projects with Accenture Consulting to program projects for local government. She is an adjunct professor for California Baptist University, a social media aficionado, and loves using her knowledge and talents for the local Nonprofit Resource Center. When not at the computer she is photographing her family, running or reading about something new.