Technology Leadership in Non-Tech Companies

What do we mean by a non-tech company and why is leadership with a grasp of technology so important?

In 2020 it’s safe to say that all companies are in some way, technology companies. So, what do we mean by a non-tech company and why is leadership with a grasp of technology so important?

The difference is between bits and atoms. When you think about most tech companies that are either all software or primarily software based. There are a lot of cultural differences valuing speed and agility, the fact that your product is software, bits, means that there are unique properties. They can flow over the internet freely. They have zero marginal cost. They have network effects with a bunch of these kind of properties that tech companies have grownup with that non tech companies don't have and don't have a history or value that as much.  

Non-tech companies deal with the physical world, atoms, and make up these physical, tangible objects. There's more friction between atom- based businesses than bit-based businesses.  

Non-tech companies are later to the party and have a lot of legacy culture. That creates friction; whereas tech companies just don’t have that right out of the gate.

They are fundamentally different, yet both need to understand technology and its potential in order to succeed.


The Innovator’s Dilemma

Tech companies can disrupt one another quicker than non tech companies can. For example, Google building phones. This disruption will only continue, and we will see more and more traditional tech companies moving into the “non-tech” space.

Historically, non-tech companies had time to innovate, but because of software improvements, the common thread through it all is speed.  Non-tech companies now need to innovate more quickly and more carefully than ever before.

 

Digital transformation

Digital transformation describes the process by which a company forms a strategy to implement technology to improve business and meet the ever-changing demands of the consumer.

A great example of this playing out in the tech world is the automotive industry. Tesla set out to create a computer with wheels. It’s been 10 years and the automotive industry still hasn’t caught up to Elon Musk’s vision, despite the strides being made.   

Digital transformation also involves leveraging digital tools to fundamentally change or transform a business. It’s really difficult to transform. You have to use technology to radically improve your product.  

With the right process and tools in place, digital transformation can propel a non-tech company forward. Walmart and Target are great examples of brick and mortar retailers successfully using technology to improve their brands and customer experience.


How important is it for leadership to be digitally fluent?

Digitally fluent leadership is paramount to even have a chance at digital transformation for older companies. Identifying strategic digital initiative opportunities and seeing them to completion is crucial to success for non-tech companies. And the right leadership in place to set the vision and drive momentum is crucial.

“Non-tech” companies are increasingly starting software projects for operations, to enhance their service or product, or to transform their business. Forward thinking, empathetic leadership is needed to help these companies take that leap successfully and avoid the common pitfalls that plague software projects.

 

Where does this leave us?

While it can be daunting, non-tech companies actually have a unique opportunity to leverage a digital strategy and gain a competitive advantage with strong technology leadership.

Ultimately, it's about understanding how the business operates as a whole. You have to understand how marketing, sales, HR, and the core business works together so that you are able to deploy an effective technology strategy.

In truth, it's less about technology and more about people.

Build Thoughtful Software
Andrew Wolfe
Written by

Andrew Wolfe

Andrew has an M.S. in Computer Science from Georgia Tech University. But he prides himself over 10 years of experience working in the software industry for well-known companies such as Diebold, Tableau, Explorys, and Onshift. After years in the corporate and startup worlds as well as running his own consulting firm, Andrew realized he had to do more to improve software products and practices. From that, Skiplist was born. Skiplist is the opportunity to focus on thoughtful, quality software and change the software consulting industry.