the ceo magazine, technology,
Brian Lynott, CEO, ATL Communications

For our look at the intersection of technology and business, I’m going to ask you one multiple-choice question:  Today’s typical CEO has earned their leadership training from (select one):

 A.  Business school   B.  Liberal arts   C.  Tech    D.  On the job training

Spoiler alert: “D” is a trick answer: all CEOs are continuously learning as they lead their companies into greater growth.  Setting that aside, the correct answer is “C.”

A recent study found that a full third of CEOs come from technical backgrounds, while only 11 percent have business administration degrees. 

Why the surprising level of technology focus in today’s business leadership?  Because in today’s world, technology is at the foundation of every business. For many companies the technology offering is the key business offering and revenue driver. Conversely, technology without a strong business driver can simply be a boondoggle.

So, it is not surprising to learn that the vast majority of executive leadership comes from technical, not Ivy-league business backgrounds.

As you know, even the companies in non-technology industries require a great deal of technology to manage and grow their operations.  We see this every day in our company.  We provide the technology safety net for company toll-free telecommunications networks.  Our clients may not be technology-focused, but they absolutely need to rely on state-of-the-art tech to ensure continuous operation of their telecommunications system.

On the flip-side, technology without business insight and executive governance is equally detrimental to a company.  CEO’s with strong technology background have the reverse challenge:  to ensure they have full understanding of the business impact of technology on the enterprise, its revenues and governance.  As a technology-grounded CEO running a technology-focused enterprise, I need to be personally rigorous in ensuring the business case for any tech solution, program or resource.

To ensure you’re leveraging the power of technology and business strategy in equal amounts in your leadership role, here are four key take-aways:

1. Technology:  equal parts inspiration and function

Technology is exciting, as it inspires new possibilities and opens the door for new markets and new ways of doing things. However, it is equally important as a tool to simply improve business functions and reliability.

In our technology-focused enterprise, it’s important to  ensure that we are keeping up with the latest technology and regulations surrounding our industry, and our clients.  My commitment to customers and our company requires that.  However, I also commit a percentage of my time and resources to investigating new, exciting, and emerging technologies to grow the company and support clients.

Takeaway:  Devote time and resources to ensure technology is delivering best function and performance in your enterprise.  However, don’t forget to invest in “possibilities research” to see what emerging technology can do for company and industry.

2. Reach beyond your comfort zone.

To deliver excellence as a CEO, reach outside of your comfort zone for ideas that are both strategic and realistic.  If you are a tech-centric executive, pay attention to non-technical data and insight.  Conversely, if you possess a classic business background, make a point of garnering tech intelligence.

Pay attention to the insights you can glean from staff at all levels within the organization, from clients, and from industry influencers, across a range of technology and business perspectives. Take those insights, with a goal of creating a seamless, 360-degree view of a strategy that pulls from business and technology insight.

Takeaway:  It’s understandable to lead with your strength, whether tech or business-focused.  However, reaching out beyond your comfort zone, and actively pursuing a wide field of insight from tech and business alike can yield profound dividends for your business.

3. Understand technology’s role in revenue strategy. 

Your company doesn’t need to be a Microsoft to reap revenue dividends from technology.  The key to leveraging tech to drive revenues resides in two key areas:

  1.  Technology as a driver for today’s existing enterprise
  2.  Technology’ as a revenue opportunity for tomorrow’s company vision

As a CEO, you have no doubt done your work in identifying how selling, deploying or integrating technology today helps your company.  But have your looked to future impact?  Map out how technology will affect your business or industry in one year, three years, and five years.

Takeaway:  You may certainly know how enterprise technology offerings drive revenues; but it is equally important to understand the value of technology in a) supporting operations and b) creating opportunity for future revenues.

4. Be ready to pivot. 

Technology drives opportunity; it also can spell the demise of previously profitable processes and markets.  Learn to identify early warning signs that the technology which worked so well for your company today, is on its way to obsolescence tomorrow.

In a nutshell, never rest.  Continuously analyze your systems, processes, and the evolving technologies that are available to your company. While disruption is painful, the benefits to your company, customers and competitive standing are enormous.

Takeaway:  Even the best company offerings and processes have a shelf life.  Always be on the lookout for emerging technologies that offer promise, and changes in the competitive landscape that require a quick response.

Using Technology Innovation to Drive Business Success

As a CEO from a tech background and education in various disciplines, I rely on a blend of leadership experience to help set company priorities, maintain systems and processes that deliver optimal efficiency, generate revenues, drive customer satisfaction, and ensure that all employees in the organization have the tools needed to be successful. 

You don’t have to come from a career in tech to use these same tools for successful executive governance. The right mix of business acumen and techno-strategy can deliver operational and revenue-generation results that will drive business success.

As a last personal note, the way people interact and experience the world is changing at a faster pace than ever before and it will continue to change at a pace that we cannot even begin to imagine. This rapid change is specifically related to technology. The advantage technologists have is that we understand that unlearning is just as important as learning. In my lifetime, technology was truly born. Today I understand that if I did business the same way I did it before, as early as a year ago, my business would be left behind. We must always be aware of technology trends and because of this awareness it becomes a culture in the businesses I have founded.

About the Author

Brian Lynott, CEO of ATL Communications, incorporates the use and evaluation of technology into his team’s daily discussion of the mission-critical telecom ecosystem. ATL is the largest non-carrier toll-free and number administrator in the nation, serving hundreds of clients and managing millions of toll-free and local numbers.


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