"We Became a Technology Company and No One Noticed."

Thanks to Jeremy for the insightful quote.

Whether it’s network up-time, software that runs without ceasing, or the IVR System handling thousands of calls per hour without blinking, our enterprise hinges on the IT department’s ability to perform in real-time. I guess it’s always been this way, but it didn’t seem like it a few years ago.

When I started working for my current employer there were less than 100 employees, and only five developers. We had several apps running in a call center and a lot of back-end stuff stored in a SQL Server database, but overall we were a small, fast-paced IT shop inside a small, fast-paced startup. We were a small piece of the much bigger company around us, and although our work was valued, it was second or third in line behind increasing sales, growing market share, and all those other things startups worry about. Outages were rare and dealt with swiftly, but they were far from catastrophic.

Today we have 15 developers and are looking to double that in the next six months (if you live in L.A and have .NET experience, contact me). We’re a software machine cranking out everything from desktop apps to TCP/IP listeners. Without our software churning night and day the company would come to a grinding, screeching, mind-numbing halt.

We’ve been ushered out of the league of a startup, where you can throw something into production and hope it works, to a legitimate corporate entity where downtime runs in the 4 or 5 figures per hour. I can’t think of another piece of our organization that has such a real-time impact on our bottom line.

Although technological innovation is not how we make our money, technological prowess and consistency sure is. We may be a financial services company to our customers, but we’re really a technology company at heart.

At some point we became a technology company and didn’t even notice.

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4 comments ↓

#1 Adnan Masood on 04.26.06 at 2:37 pm

Thanks for the insight Rob. I think I’d question the comment about use of the term “Technology Company” as information technology is not our main business. However, like various other vertical enterprises, it’s a mission critical part. Let’s take UPS as an example which heavily relies on information technology modernization for its mail delivery, routing, tracking and delivery infrastructure. It’s still a courier services company however, advancements in information technology augments and elevates its business process. Still, an IT downtime for them may cost over than six figures and can seriously hurt the company’s image (Citi notifies 3.9 million customers of lost data – MSNBC). To me the term “Technology Company”, is an affiliated with enterprise having technology as its core business. A financial institution, for instance Citibank or BoA heavily relies of technology but are they technology companies? On the other hand, Cisco, Google or Microsoft are technology companies but I guess it is always a matter of semantics of how a term is coined and used. The other part of this equation is how to change the usual business practices as you grow heavy reliance on technology? When you spread from a startup vertical Market Company to a major niche market share holder with increasing reliance on technology, keeping the startup spirit is difficult but can you afford losing it? Will injecting process cost you more in terms of innovation and growth or would you be willing to compromise on it for compliance and stability? Just some interesting questions I thought should raise and hope you’ll cover them in one of your excellent writings.

#2 rwalling on 04.26.06 at 3:33 pm

I have to agree that “Technology Company” is not the correct descriptor for someone like UPS. In the end it’s a matter of semantics, but what I was trying to say is that our business now relies very heavily on technology to keep the doors open and we didn’t a few years ago. Of course, by that definition every company is a technology company. With that in mind, calling UPS (or the company I work for) a “Technology Company” is a bit heavy-handed. Perhaps “Technology Backed” or “Technology Reliant” is a better way to describe it. Thanks for your thought provoking comment.

#3 http:// on 05.09.06 at 6:00 pm

I think it is a valid statement and not just because i said it ;). We started out needing software developed to help the support users. In this eviorment we were not a technology company. This is because the software created was just to “support” our other employees and was not driving our businees plan. Now we have moved from this or are moving. We still require our support software, but we are moving more and more into an online business that has as few touchpoints as possible. As these touchpoints decrease we become more and more a technology company. UPS will always be required to deliver a package which will always be a touchpoint (unless they come up with some kind of beaming technology ;). I agree that most companies rely on technology, but I think what takes a company into a “Technology Company” is how technology plays in the total business plan.

#4 http:// on 06.09.06 at 2:27 am

I think that “Technology Reliant Company” or some similar descriptor is more appropriate for your company. The product or service that you sell, in the marketplace, more appropriately describes what type of company you are. Even though most companies of any size will rely heavily on technology to compete, in this same marketplace, they could function without technology. It would just require many more people and more time to accomplish the same thing. The end result would be that they could not perform their core business function as efficiently as their competitors. This would result in the non-technology reliant company going out of business. So even though your IT Dept. was not the cornerstone of the foundation of your company when it was smaller. It certainly is ONE of the cornerstones today.