Business Management

Beyond the Crystal Ball: How to be a tech visionary

The following is a contributed article by Vassil Terziev, CIO at application development and data connectivity company Progress


The word ‘visionary’ conjures up all sorts of images; not least a futurist with crystal ball-gazing abilities. But in today’s tech landscape the demands on becoming a visionary have changed significantly, with three specific dynamics affecting the requirements of the job. Embracing or ignoring these will be the difference between success and failure.


The need for speed

To be a visionary today means bigger, bolder and more ideas brought to fruition in less time. The rate of change in technology means a good, unique and novel idea doesn’t stay that way for long. The element of surprise is not the same as before, so fast execution has become a big differentiator.

The art we need to master is to leverage technology to test our vision, the readiness of the organisation we are part of, and the markets in which we play, or plan to play, in. Technology can help us see quickly what is missing to successfully put our vision into practice.

Engineering multiple “controlled failures”– small tests that justify our direction and based on the results quickly course-correct – can make all the difference. It’s a fickle world and people are unforgiving about a cool vision that fails to quickly materialise. Work hard to build the tools and processes that validate our direction and put it into a strong operational model.

The speed at which change occurs also means we need to be far more convincing when we try and implement a change in an organisation. As such, the role is a lot more about strong leadership, moving away from the lab and building a bridge to support the business objectives.


The whole picture

Opportunities and threats come from everywhere today. A company you might never have even considered could be going head-to-head with you tomorrow. Disruption is, unfortunately, not a frontal assault so having the ability to step back and look at the whole picture is vital. This requires an adaptive vision – one that is flexible enough to adjust based on the circumstances of the surrounding world. Fear of change and the misalignment of a vision to existing realities only have one outcome – failure.

In tandem, an adaptive vision needs to be supported by organisational agility. The future belongs to the “Agile Enterprise”. In reality this means your company’s willingness and ability to remove the functional walls so that all staff are aligned to one goal, the customer. It also relies on your company’s willingness to embrace external connectedness and cooperation. Working with partners and third parties as an innovation engine will provide you with a vibrant ecosystem that gives you reach, new ideas, immediate feedback at scale and course correction.


The bottom-up movement

The days of the one-man show – amazing visions that are executed top-down by a glorious leader – are coming to an end. A bottom-up model that enables your employees and your ecosystem to drive the vision will take over. This ultimately means innovating around the process over and above your role as a crystal ball predicting the market.  

It also requires instilling a different mindset in the workforce. You need to prepare and motivate employees to be a lot more open and prepared for change. People need to start working with imperfect plans in order to drive their careers and companies ahead.

To be successful, you have to rally people internally and externally around your vision and its execution much earlier in the process, and take a leadership position on living in ambiguity and embracing change as the norm.

Interesting times are ahead, and if you play to these dynamics you’ll likely continue to enjoy the full visionary cycle from blurry idea to a market success. 


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