During my 10 years of consulting I have worked with many engineers who are great leaders and manage successful technology companies. There are many characteristics that define a leader. Like asking the right questions, admitting when something isn’t working quite right and working hard to make improvements when necessary. But – there’s a balance that needs to be found between sales and innovation. As a consultant – this is the nitty-gritty part that leads us to this question: What comes first, the chicken or the egg? What comes selling of the product or “perfecting” it?
What COO’s, CIO’s say about the technology…
- …it needs this feature
- …if we do this it will improve the technology by 10%
- …it’s not ready
- …it’s not ready to scale the largest of client applications
- …we haven’t seen it in all of its environments
Engineers and CIO’s by trade always want the product to be flawless before it is used by a client. The challenge with this thinking is that technology and software is inevitably changing. It rarely gets implemented as fast as CEO’s would like to see. And, it almost never comes in as under budget as CFO’s would like. Ultimately, the executives in the business want to see their ROI – yesterday. They want the technology to go to market so they can recoup their bleeding investments.
So what really “should” come first – the chicken or the egg? My answer – you’re not going to be happy – is….it depends.
It depends on one thing – competitive advantage; the unfair competitive advantage you have on your competition. Innovation makes the chicken first. You need the sales to finish the egg, and you need to perfect the technology in the minds of the engineers and consumers alike. Only through valid innovation will you be able to catapult over other technologies and earn the luxury to fix and improve your product on the fly.
I am a proponent to the Seth Godin saying “ship baby ship”. . . but what I think we are talking about here is just plain market supply and demand. If your software has a killer application, a real break-through in time savings, sales driving or cost reduction – then the market will bear more time for you to fix the rest of the problems. The chicken of “sales” will hatch better eggs. Version 2, 3 and 4 to make more and more progress to get you the place the engineers wanted you to be on day one.
Yes, while some may disagree, in this case – the chicken definitely comes first.