Vision, communication, innovation and empathy are some of the principal qualities a leader needs to successfully direct a tech organization these days.

But other practical requirements can influence whether a leader succeeds or not. And as Mark Robinson, co-founder and CMO of London-based Kimble Applications, points out, even delivering cutting-edge technologies are not enough.

Success in a Tech World Takes More Than Technology

In the tech world, Robinson told CMSWire, it’s not always the best technology that wins — marketing and brand awareness also play a role in ensuring success.

While moving quickly to stay ahead of the competition is important, a forward-looking mindset is needed to ensure you don’t make an irreversible mistake. One big, wrong technology decision can send years of effort down the drain.

“Practically speaking, this means that timing your entrance to the market is one of the most challenging aspects. You have to time it just right. There’s a challenge of getting to market too early, which usually means you are too early for the 'wave' in market growth, but you certainly don’t want to be too late and miss out on the prime opportunity,” he said.

Tech leaders can take the following practical measures to improve performance and process across the enterprise.

18 Tips to Stay Ahead of the Competition

Workplace Tips

Yama Habibzai, is chief technology officer of Richmond Hill, Ontario-based Densify, a cloud optimization company. He previously served as marketing lead at Netcordia, SevOne and ScienceLogic. He suggests tech leaders develop the following seven practical measures:

1. Team balance. Build a team of skilled, intelligent and creative individuals who work well with each other and also with others. Tech leaders don’t have to be smart, they just have to surround themselves with smart people.

2. Messaging. Teams should be able to create messaging about complex technology that even a beginner would understand.

3. Simplify. When it comes to websites, graphic design and everything else, less is always more. The first step is realizing that minimized content, clean graphics and web pages, and shorter videos (no longer than one minute) all lead to more consumption.

4. Tune out the noise. Teams should always be working on things that move the needle. Workers are consumed with lots and lots of noise each day, but if they focus on the things that impact business, everything else will take care of itself.

5. Competition. When it comes to competitors, don’t try to learn everything about them, this is futile. Instead, managers should encourage people to focus on their company's strengths and differentiators.

6. Differentiators. Everyone in the organization needs to understand the one thing that makes the organization distinct and hone in and build on it. You want to be known in the market for this distinction.

7. Complacency. Successful tech companies regularly take calculated risks and try new things. Habibzai said his company tried billboards, race car sponsorships and other far-fetched campaigns. Some worked great and those that didn’t, they ignored. Without risk, you can't grow.

Team Building

Tom Eggemeier is president of Daly City, Calif.-based Genesys, an omnichannel customer experience and contact center solutions provider. He believes the key to leadership in any industry is the ability to identify and develop good talent, motivate teams, build consensus among other strong leaders and the willingness to listen and act on other's perspectives. These are baseline skills for the leader of any company. However, tech companies do offer some differences. 

Eggemeier told CMSWire, “What makes leading technology companies challenging is the pace and the ever-expanding global landscape. Technology continues to advance at lightning speed, and the market evolves and grows faster than we’ve seen before. Anticipating how to drive the company’s future based on very short windows of time and ever-changing dynamics is critical for any leader.” 

Eggemeier added four more recommendations:

Learning Opportunities

8. Information analysis. You need to be a relentless analyst of information. Take nothing at face value. A leader needs to always dig deeper and ask the tough questions.

9. Emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is as important in leadership as intellectual intelligence. If you’re a leader, you’re in the people business. And you can’t do that well if you don’t understand yourself or others. 

10. Global perspective. Global markets vary greatly according to country and culture. Analyze and understand all the different countries and cultures where the organization operates.

11. Customer-centric. Put the customer at the center of everything your organization does. Workers need to maintain a steady pulse on what customers want —sometimes anticipating what that is even before customers themselves know it — and then deliver on it.

SMB Perspective

As the founder of a number of startups, Chris Dalton, CEO at B2B commerce SaaS platform CloudCraze had some insightful perspectives for small-to-medium start-ups.

12. Vetted ideas. Leaders need confirmation that their idea will stick. This requires a deep understanding of the ins and outs of their industry. At the end of the day, without a market need, why are you building the organization? 

13. Timing. Once you’ve vetted your idea and likely market demands, seize the opportune moment to debut your product. Jump into the market at a time when there’s imminent or approaching scarcity. Entering the market during this stage will give your start-up margin elasticity and credibility.

14. Analysis paralysis. Many passionate entrepreneurs have golden business propositions. Usually, the ones struggling to get on their feet lack a focused decision making process. The lack of focus leads to analysis paralysis, or the inability to make critical decisions. Having a team of leaders willing and able to make those decisions keeps your company churning with healthy ideas to actualize your goals.

15. Too many cooks. As organizations begin to take on capital, an increasing number of stakeholders will want to influence the startup’s actions. Don’t incorporate outside investors and advisors who aren’t involved in the day to day work. Otherwise, you risk bringing too many voices into the room, which will distract the company from its goals and result in a decision-making stalemate.

16. Diversify leadership. Organizations also need to assess the balance of leadership. Look for partners who respect your needs and complement your abilities, strengths and work styles. It’s a balancing act to find the right fit, but it’s electrifying once you find it.

17. Risk taking. Once your leaders are in place, create timely goals and strive to take those risks when appropriate. The tactical work to meet the goals can be adjusted throughout the process in taking an agile approach, but the goals should remain set when possible.

18. Motivational workplace. A start-up needs energy and drive that extends past the executive leaders’ offices to thrive. Be transparent with the rest of your staff about your visions and goals for the company and help them see how — with their help — you will collectively achieve them.