So, instead of focusing on the latest and shiniest, I wanted to talk about building companies made to work with the enterprise. It might not be the sexiest thing to do, but boring businesses have proven to be very successful, even if they don't get the same type of press as other technology companies.
I wanted to get a different perspective on the best way to create a company from innovative CIOs, so I reached out to two enterprise technology executives who have experience with evaluating startup companies and vendors to use for their business.
I asked them both the same question, separately:
"If you were to give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur creating a company that has the goal of being acquired by a bigger company, what would it be?"
Either they were both spying on each other, or they both had the same thought because they said the same thing: The solution must be simple and frictionless.
But this is easier said than done. I wanted to dive deeper into how entrepreneurs can create simple solutions for a complex environment.
Here are two ways to make the solution simple and frictionless.
1. Start with simple processes.
Simple is complex, especially in a bigger environment. So, how do you create a simple process?
I'm not a process expert, but I've learned quite a bit working for big enterprise companies for the past 10 years. Here's how to create a simple process:
- Start by doing the entire process yourself.
- Document every aspect of the process. Document what worked well, and what was really tedious and prone to mistakes.
- Refine it. Take out the steps that are unnecessary or can be automated.
- Repeat steps 1-3 until you have the simplest process possible.
Tim Walter, CIO at Randa Accessories has an interesting perspective. He is responsible for creating technology that major retailers all over the world interact with. If it's not simple to work with him and his company, then his business suffers. This is why he focuses on simple. He says:
"Many entrepreneurs are looking to solve complex problems with complex back-end processes. The problem with solving these types of problems is that there are rarely simple answers. And nothing scares a bigger company than something that can't be explained and solved simply. In my world, simple processes sells."
2. Make it easy to implement.
Getting something running in a big company takes a lot of work. Some technical, but mostly political.
The easier it is to implement and prove that it works, the better off you are.
Here's how you make something easier to implement:
- The fewer IT systems it has to integrate with, the better. Ideally, it can stand alone.
- Make it dead simple to understand. The more complex the answer, the more people get involved. That never ends well.
When I talked to John Squeo, CIO at Thorek Memorial Hospital, he gave me an interesting perspective on his philosophy when it comes to dealing with startups and vendors offering products that his hospital can use. He says:
"The first thing I look for is the amount of friction to implement their solution. If it's going to take six months to implement something that's going to be available to me in a year, I'll pass. The best solutions for us tend to be frictionless."
I used to run IT for a company and it was really one of the hardest--and quite honestly, thankless--jobs there are. When I was approached by vendors or startups pitching me their technology, I always navigated to what was the easiest to understand and easiest to implement. The easier it made my life, the easier I made theirs.
If you're building something you think bigger enterprise companies can use and potentially acquire, keep it simple. Start with the processes, make it easy to understand, and build a solution that doesn't require an entire IT company to implement it.