Help, I need a specialist with a specific specialisation
Getting good advice in areas of your business where you are not an expert, is something we all have to do in order to grow and succeed. You are a specialist in your specific area of business but you need input from others to ensure you do not fall behind your competitors in other areas. A specialism is by definition, special, so when you need specialist advice, it’s better to find someone with that specialisation, yes?
CTO for hire is a fairly new business service on the market although the concept is by no means new. IT consultants have been around as long as computers but traditionally they were experts in a specific technology or product. These days with the huge amount of choice in nearly every element of computing, the advice you pay for needs be able to help you find the solutions most appropriate to your business needs and budget and importantly ones which will grow with your business, and not become a productivity or financial burden.
Be wary of in-your-house experts
Technology has become such an important part of everyday life that it’s easy to be considered a tech savvy person because you can configure your own mobile phone and watch TV and movies on the internet. Techy savvy people are available everywhere; they could be your kids, your partner, your sibling, or your friend, but unless they are experienced in the use of technology within a business, and can understand what you need within your business, then they are not the savvy person you need for your business decisions.
Watch out for cool looking shiny things
There was a discussion between 2 stakeholders in a business very close to me. An old computer system needed replacing, a very specific type of computer system not developed by many companies. Brochures were obtained, two companies were asked to present and almost immediately two totally contrasting opinions were formed immediately by the two stakeholders. One favoured the company with more experience, an existing client base but the product was a console based system (no shiny interface but using text commands); their new GUI would not be ready for a year. The other company was new to this market, had no similar clients, it was a new product with a nice looking, ‘easy to use’ graphical interface and although not all the required functionality was available yet, new modules “would be added soon”.
After much heated debate, and total disregard of any actual technical advice or interviews with actual users, the latter product with the nice looking interface and the “new modules coming soon” was selected, purchased and installed. The new system was switched on and the old system switched off (with no gradual roll-out plan). Pretty much instantly the company was thrown backwards. The new system took more than twice as long to find a product, not all the prices and variations were in, so staff resorted to looking in the manufacturer supplied paper catalogues. The accounts team could not generate sales reports so had to create them manually in a spreadsheet.
This could so easily have been avoided with proper advice and impartial analysis of what the business actually needed against the products available. Maybe the correct system was purchased but implemented wrongly, maybe the wrong system was selected or maybe the previous system could have been upgraded instead of replaced. The important thing is that these questions should have been asked up-front and not after the money has been spent.
Getting the right advice upfront can save you a lot of time, money and stress later. You don’t need to hire a full-time CTO or IT Director to get that level of expertise on an ongoing basis, but the person you do get, you need to trust with your business plans and operational information so that they can give you the advice you need.
14 Tips for Hiring the Perfect CTO - http://mashable.com/2011/05/06/cto-startup-hiring/