On the face of it, the management challenges for the major segments of the software industry—be it off-the-shelf packaged products, enterprise solutions or services—look different from each other. For companies providing off-the-shelf products, success lies in its emphasis on marketing, while enterprise solutions providers depend on partnering. It can be argued that IT service companies need to be completely “people-focused.” Not withstanding these areas, there are 10 common themes that are important to the success of a software company.
An inspiring vision
Without doubt, people are the main assets in any software firm. To get these assets to deliver their best, they need to be aligned to an inspiring vision. Individuals want to make a difference. Aligning them to a common inspiring vision fulfils this desire, bringing out the best in them and producing unbelievable results.
Culture of innovation
Anyone can start a software company. The barriers to entry are low, particularly in IT services. The only way to stay ahead and survive is to continuously innovate. The fundamental ideas about the business may emerge from the founders, but as the organisation grows, it needs to involve its work-force in the innovation process. The culture of innovation instils a sense of creativity and risk-taking, with a heightened tolerance for failure.
Ability to take risks
To keep pace with rapid changes in the environment, it is important to take risks. Software businesses need to build on multiple options and prepare for uncertainties. The culture of innovation allows people to take risks. With such a culture the organisation is not scared of failures, but learns from them. Service companies are less tolerant about mistakes than product ones, as the essence of the business is based on a relationship of trust. When mistakes do occur, quick services recovery is a must and continuous value addition is important.
In the knowledge industry, where market forces continuously bring in new players, innovation to continuously build product and services differentiation shapes competitive and operational performance. Keeping one finger on the market pulse sets a company apart.
Branding and marketing
Often ignored by the services industry, branding and marketing is perhaps the most important external activity. The key differentiators in the company’s business, product or services need to be communicated effectively so that potential services seekers can recall these offerings. Equally important is public relations, as services providers must promote a brand of trust.
Picking the right battles
Organisations need to know their strengths and invest in building them as core competencies. They should not hesitate to build partnerships in order to offer a more complete and comprehensive solutions portfolio. IT solutions are complex and it is not necessary to build all capabilities within the organisation. Companies need to know when to partner.
Investing in people
In today’s context, supply side issues are becoming more challenging than demand. Competition is not only for business but the best talent. Winning the race for talent is crucial for success. The motivators for software professionals are unique. Compensation is not enough. Alignment to the market is crucial. What is essential is a great culture that promotes growth, development and provides for a challenging and fulfilling environment. Investing in this environment is the key to success.
Growth leads to the addition of new people and natural attrition brings in new faces into the organisation. The vision, goals and aspirations of a company need to be regularly reinforced through continuous communication so that the workforce remains aligned to its values and beliefs. Equally important is to communicate information about performance and the contribution each individual and team is making to the organisation, thereby instilling a sense of belonging and pride.
Flawless delivery is a base assumption for any software company but we all know that software development often encounters problems. These relate to quality, timeliness and costs. In most cases, timeliness of delivery is most important. IT projects, solutions or products that meet this criteria are usually within budget and costs. Maturity of software and processes minimises risks.
Successful software companies are characterised by exemplary leaders. These leaders usually aim high, are quick to grasp points of inflection and are able to build a dynamic organisation that can steer through the uncertainties produced by a competitive market. Successful leaders create a culture within their organisations that attracts and retains talent. They are able to communicate effectively their vision and articulate a cohesive strategy to achieve it.
(The author is chief executive officer, NIIT Technologies Ltd)