The innovation stage for tech companies

posted by Jeff | Friday, December 1, 2017, 11:12 PM | comments: 0

One of the things I've tried to do in various jobs is keep stakeholders and other people around a business in the loop on how the software development effort is going. Sometimes this involves just summarizing major accomplishments and velocity in a sprint, sometimes it means more widely distributed, generalized information. At my current job, I do a monthly update to the whole company, and share the accomplishments of the development team and the themes around the work we're doing.

Last month I reviewed the last year in my update, because I just crossed my first work anniversary. This month I was thinking a lot about where we were headed, and it got me to thinking about a major innovation phase. When I really stopped to think about it and look for innovation as a pattern, I realized that it's one of the few generalized phases that young technology companies often go through.

I've seen this go both ways. A lot of companies, or their internal software/IT efforts, are in a continuous battle to just barely stay ahead, and never get around to breaking new ground to serve their customers, internal or external, in a better way. In companies where the effort is just a cost center that supports a bigger business, they can kind of limp along this way, but for pure technology players, it's bound to lead to certain death.

On the other hand, when I worked at Insurance.com, my longest gig on a single product and in a technology company, I joined around the time that the innovation phase was just beginning. (A lack of innovation is not what eventually killed that company... that's another story.) In the years prior to me joining, the had been through the struggles and pain of trying to scale and figure out what the product was supposed to be. In my time there, we were dreaming up all kinds of things and building on a pretty stable platform where we could measure everything. We did nutty things that people take for granted today, like decide what kind of picture on a form resulted in higher sales conversion for specific demographics. I'm not sure that we measured the ROI on those projects, but it was still pretty cool.

The idea that we're headed into this phase is pretty exhilarating. It's what every technologist wants to be a part of, but honestly, we don't get to do it very often. As someone who has always struggled with job satisfaction, it's personally important.

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