B2B Software Vendors: Hybrid Roles for Business Technology
Like many other companies, software companies have allowed silos of work activity and responsibility to proliferate with adverse effects. There are now increased efforts to improve collaboration and cross-team project work to bring best efforts into play for company competitiveness. The ever-increasing presence of social collaboration practices and social media applications are driving changes to corporate collaboration cultures.
The demands of innovation, meeting customer needs, and rapidly changing solution markets are challenging software companies to work much more quickly and collaboratively than ever before. SW companies need to innovate: job roles, how work is done, better collaboration practices. Software companies are showing increasing need for “hybrid” roles even though few software companies are actively encouraging an evolution in how work roles are defined.
Hybrid roles are intersection points for cross-team expertise, collaboration and communication. People in hybrid roles understand many different perspectives both internal and external to the company. The hybrid professional works to integrate multiple perspectives in work being done with multiple teams. Hybrids have real potential for broadly connecting the dots in new ways, to help company innovation and competitiveness. For software companies, what hybrids can do somewhat parallels the “good kind” of integration and convergence of solution spaces, and even of the companies themselves, into new entities.
To be able to communicate across many teams, hybrid roles must be “multi-lingual”: techie talk, customer speak, product management/product marketing lingo, as well as the lingua franca of reality checks. Creative thinking, new directions, new ways of looking at the business of the company not only contribute to the positive direction of the company but also are effective for catching problems with current initiatives and strategies.
Different Hybrid Roles Are Popping Up in Many Companies
Common denominators for hybrid roles in different disciplines and industries seem to include: specific deep knowledge in multiple subject matter areas, technology astuteness, the understanding of business needs that cross traditional boundaries, belief in collaboration, even the use of social capabilities to support work processes and better communication. Hybrid roles are frequently focused on crossing silos to achieve better results and to see bigger pictures.
With the need to better align IT responsibilities with corporate business, many CIO positions are evolving into hybrid roles. There is strong strategic reasoning behind CIOs taking on cross-team and cross-functional positions. By placing CIOs in hybrid roles, they have more power and visibility to be able to improve enterprise-wide processes, to have real impact on business goals, and to better tie technology to the business. In the companies that have migrated CIOs to hybrid roles, the CIOs have more opportunity and punch to influence how technology and the business can work together for the overall good of the company.
Theses hybrid roles are very demanding for both the CIO and the IT group. As with all other technology-related hybrid roles, there is a risky side, particularly with the CIO stepping into areas not traditionally the usual tech turf. But for the CIO to better support the business of the business, she/he must have real participation in business and overall strategic decisions for the enterprise.
Indeed, CIOs who have taken on additional business are better positioned to deliver improved processes and business results. "I am both the customer and provider of a solution. There are people on my team that are using technology to generate revenue, and there are people on my team who are delivering technology"
Marketing Technology Hybrid
Scott Brinker published an extensive and well-crafted piece on the rise of the marketing technologist, which describes yet another hybrid role. He thoroughly considers the future of “technology-powered marketing” where “Marketing must take ownership of the technology in its domain”. I highly recommend reading the entire article.
Some of Scott’s observations on the marketing technologist hybrid:
As marketers, you're already responsible for the outcomes based on such technology. The accountability so widely promoted in digital marketing has you in the hot seat for results. It's only sensible that you should have full control over the means and mechanisms to deliver those results.
You must be the driver of marketing technology, not merely a concerned passenger. But if you don't have technical depth, who can help you navigate? …I propose a new role in the marketing department: a marketing CTO or chief marketing technologist. The mission of the marketing CTO is to provide that technology navigation.
I believe that digital marketing is more like product development than IT because it is:
· More front-office than back-office
· Experienced directly by customers
· An engine for new revenue
· Integral to the brand
· Visible in competitive positioning
· A creative endeavor
Financial expert / Business Analyst / Software Developer
Rummaging around the ‘net I found this recent job posting for “Business Analyst - Financial Accounting - Developer Role”
So if you are an accounting/finance professional who also has a technology background, apply!
* Background in accounting and general knowledge of GAAP
* Excellent communications skills
* Bachelors Degree in Accounting, Finance or related
* 5+ years working in technology as an (systems) analyst or developer
So What Makes Me a Hybrid?
Being a hybrid is risky business – I know from personal and professional experience. But it is also extremely rewarding, where the unexpected is just around the corner. My particular hybrid perspective draws on down-in-the-trenches experience in the technology, business, and people-oriented aspects of creating, marketing and selling software. My other hybrid bits include product/solution strategy, market and competitive intelligence, GTM strategy.
A hybrid perspective comes in very handy for constructing relevant strategic market and competitive intelligence, recommendations for company competitiveness and innovations, and understanding whether a company’s software technology can map to new customer solution scenarios. I can bring a perspective of understanding how all the pieces fit and inter-relate, when working with different teams. Such a perspective also helps with “seeing outside oneself” to visualize how a company is positioned in the larger worlds of solution spaces, markets and the overall software industry.
Overcoming Problems - Achieving Wider Acceptance
For hybrid roles to become part of strategic staffing in software companies, cultural and organizational change will have to take place, particularly in upper management and HR groups. Management-engendered cultural change should lead to company teams better accepting the value of hybrid professionals. Collaborative thinking in software companies will need to stretch out of traditional silos. Also needed is a much better understanding of what hybrids can accomplish for business and project goals, and the value of such accomplishments to the company.
Another impediment to accepting and understanding hybrid roles is the issue of job titles. Most existing titles don’t adequately express what a hybrid really embodies and is capable of doing. When trying to “identify” an employee as a hybrid, titles often deteriorate into dreadful, overly long hyphenated messes, or worse, opaque “vanity” titles. Along with an evolution in the types of positions and work done for software companies, there is a need to create more meaningful titles for many positions.
HR department gatekeepers likely will not understand these hybrid roles and their value to software companies: hybrids don’t fit the pre-built HR system job definitions that harken from the late ‘90’s. Upper management and HR must update approaches to filling key positions by enabling inclusion of new breeds of professionals that companies need to attain more innovative thinking and change how work is done.
In writing about “Social Is A Hybrid” Rich Nadworny - @rnadworny – makes these important points:
I've spoken to a few hybrids who, while providing invaluable services to their companies, lost their jobs when new bosses couldn't understand their function or value.
The challenge for most businesses is that people don't operate as hybrids. They operate within silos, with clear role definitions and even clearer budgets.
The bigger question for businesses today is whether they accept hybrid structures and if they support the growth of hybrid individuals
Hybrid Roles Matter for Software Companies to be Competitive
It may well be time for software companies to give way to evolution for how work is done, where work is done, and how workers connect with one another to achieve business goals. Hybrid roles have the potential to facilitate some of the evolution:
· Help show the way to redefine key roles – time to abandon traditional roles to achieve better results and truly tap into experience and knowledge needed across multiple teams
· Provide new thinking to assist with eliminating more silos that inhibit better cross-team collaboration, big picture perspective and faster results
· Improve cross-team communication by seeing the big picture from multiple POVs and speaking multiple “languages”
· Fuel much-needed innovation and new solution direction – connecting the unexpected dots and knowing why the connection matters
· Hybrids are more likely to feel at home with social media, social CRM and collaboration practices, and usually make excellent advocates for the use of social in software companies
The increasing proliferation of social capabilities and practices in many companies will lead to more hybrids, particularly as companies transition to becoming “social businesses”. Social business will require new roles to bridge gaps, improve communication, weigh the relevance of new ideas, and better understand customer perspectives. However, a hybrid role is not a position of omniscience – continuous and healthy cross-team collaboration (including customer relationships) is extremely important for best results.
Companies lose out when they do not recognize, employ and nurture hybrid professionals who will contribute a great deal to the business. Considering the lack of acceptance and recognition by most software companies, it’s little wonder that so many hybrids become independent consultants. Unfortunately for these companies, these hybrids take with them the broad and deep team-spanning IP that so many software companies seriously need.
About the author: Julie Hunt is an accomplished market intelligence analyst, providing strategic market and competitive insights for the software industry. Her 20+ years as a software professional range from the very technical side to customer-centric work in solutions consulting, sales and marketing. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitive and on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Market & Competitive Intelligence Services