The view from the top is spectacular: the sky is crystal clear and the spires from nearby buildings reach up – some as close as three stories below. Glass elevators from adjacent buildings race continuously from the lower levels to the top and back down. Clouds obscure the cacophony of the streets and avenues below, but here, amid these glorious vistas, all is silent and ordered.
The image described above sounds delightful, what you might expect at the top of the GM building in downtown Detroit or from the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building. For our purposes, though, it is an allegorical representation of the Large Company Syndrome: powerful executives sit atop the company’s structure, managers are running up and down getting decisions from above, while the staff’s work with their peers and clients is obscured by the clouds. It is quiet at the top – few of the problems at the staff/client level make it to the C-Suite, where one imagines the executives are pleased that after years of being the ones running up and down, they are now the ones being served. One hopes that the clients are pleased with how they’re being served.Here’s why they’re probably not:
Here’s why they’re probably not:
Most large software companies divide responsibility by functional tasks. Development is in one corner, testing, QA and Regulatory in another, sales in another, client services and perhaps project management in another. Teams may be formed for various phases, perhaps a sales/client acquisition team, an implementation team, and a maintenance team. Authority is likely not vested with the team, but within the chain of command of the disciplines. The glue that holds everything together is protocol.
But of course, there can be problems when the team that sold you the software isn’t the team that implements the software that isn’t the team that maintains the software. Who do you know? Or, more importantly, what do they know, and do you have to describe your requirements over and over again? But how long will the team you’re with stay together? Larger companies have turnover – lots of turnover – with people moving up the organization and people moving out of the organization. And if they’re not moving, do you want them on your team?
Then, naturally, one must deal with the protocols. The clients largest policyholder wants its information in this particular way, but the protocol won’t allow it. On what floor does the manager who’s overseeing the person who’s responsible for that functionality on your team have to stop to get that decision made? How long will that take? “Sorry that nuance didn’t come out in the scope…can you do it?” Being nimble and flexible isn’t characteristic of larger software companies; it can be a differentiator for the smaller software companies. And it doesn’t mean there shouldn’t be protocols. It means there should be easier and quicker ways to cut through the barriers to solve the problem.
And finally, there’s that issue of being small. The larger software companies like you because you add to their cash flow and typically don’t make too much of a fuss when things aren’t quite right. If you leave, that’s okay, there are a lot of companies waiting for the distinction of having the software company’s logo on their website. And who suffers if a larger or more profitable client needs the resources or if the call from the top is for more profit? The small client, of course. Because management doesn’t see them from their view from the fiftieth – or higher – floor.
The best software companies create organization charts that are client-centric. They structurally avoid decision-making silos (spires, if you’re still tracking the allegory), so that communication is natural and inherent within the structure. Decisions are more collaborative, protocols better understood and perhaps more reasonable, and therefore flexibility and nimbleness can flourish. Power doesn’t descend, it energizes. A pipe dream for the small or mid-size company purchasing software? No. Look carefully, choose wisely, and be confident the partners you choose can truly deliver the service and results they promise.
~ Bill Montei, CEO, founded Megalodon Insurance Systems with a simple yet BIG idea: provide small and mid-sized insurance companies powerful policy & claims management software solutions at a price that is within reach. To talk to Bill directly, please call: (608) 709-2154.