In discussion with Nic Di Iorio, Collaborative Leader and CEO, of NeoDev Technologies
Today I am fortunate enough to meet with Nic Di Iorio, CEO of NeoDev Technologies. Nic’s career has given him a multifaceted experience in all realms of technology in the private and public sector. Hence, making him the perfect partner for start-ups, fast growing tech companies and boards that value the importance of technology and staying current. Being a part of such a dynamic industry has taught Nic the value of always looking forward and tackling each problem before it even arises. I am excited to learn more about Nic’s experiences.
Nic, you told me in one of our previous conversations that your background is rather unique. Most of the time, your peers are either specialized in ‘tech as a support service’, hence being on the cost-side of the story, or they are specialized in ‘tech as a product’, meaning a product that will generate money. Your background combines the two. Can you explain why that makes you an interesting partner for growth stage companies and large enterprises undergoing digital transformations?
“Unusual may be a more appropriate term than unique. Both the roles you mentioned, share a number of similarities concerning leadership and empowerment; organizational growth and cultural awareness; and vision and communication. However, they do tend to differ in the planning, management and execution of the work itself regardless of the company size, scope and distribution.
“Tech as a support service is, by its definition, a function primarily informed by the needs of the company core business(es), and secondarily informed by the target users. Tech as the product is directly informed by its target user base whether individuals (B-to-C), businesses (B-to-B) or both. My point is that neither is more or less important than the other, but rather that the actual objectives, projects and activities are different in terms of skills, knowledge and method of execution.
“It is unusual for a professional with extensive experience in the realm of “Tech as support” to jump to the realm of “Tech as the product” and vice versa. In my case, having spent substantial amount of time leading organizations in both realms may prove to be an advantage to companies. These are companies that require expertise both on creating and developing the product(s), and in designing, implementing and supporting the processes to run a company.”
We also discussed that you’re supporting start-ups and fast growing companies, by taking care of all their processes except their core business, correct? That boils down to building an organization for, or maybe even better around a product. How do you approach such a challenge?
“From interactions I have had with new companies, it appears that there are always periods of instability and uncertainty during their early growth stages. Like when companies are evolving from start-ups building POCs and MVPs to scaling their products/services and looking to become viable and sustainable businesses. It is usually a function of the scarcity of suitable resources, inexperience of the leadership and the potentially unrealistic expectations of the investors. During these phases, these young companies receive funds from investors who endorse their plans conditional to performance. And, full of natural hubris, the young companies are inevitably prone to overpromise on commitments and deliverables. In many (if not most) cases the end result is the distancing of the CTO, CEO or both since they usually are the founding members.
“Our goal is to be a resource to these companies and their investors. With the objective of supporting the technical and product leadership by providing expert counseling regarding growth strategies. Further, we supplement their core resources with complementary teams to maximize acceleration toward their commitments and objectives. The intent is to enable the internal core resources to focus on the most important aspects of their product and its deliverables. All while off-loading from them all corollary requirements necessary to make the business sustainable.
“Our approach does not contemplate the provisioning of individual expert resources at low cost. Instead it works with the core leadership in designing external teams complementary to their internal core teams aligned toward shared objectives, commitments and methodologies.”
You also have serious experience in setting up tech support companies, staffing them globally and making them successfully operational. What are the main lessons you learned from this and how can you apply this experience to start ups here in the U.S.?
“Building a globally distributed organization, by default, entails weaving together a multitude of cultures that manifest themselves in a variety of ways. Cultural differences are not at the continental level but at the individual country level. I would argue that marked differences in behavior are discernible amongst the different states/regions/provinces of each country. The objective is not to enforce rules that subjugate the individual cultural differences, but to foster and nurture a supra set of shared values.
“Assuming that the former is achieved, I’d offer the following 3 suggestions: firstly, collaboration beats brilliance; secondly, discussion beats acquiescence; thirdly, decision beats inaction. I do not mean for these suggestions to be as draconian as they sound, so let me elaborate.
Positive and proactive collaboration is necessary. Brilliance is highly desirable but rarely sustainable without an aptitude to share, debate and collaborate. Respectful open discussion is fundamental to growth and knowledge, acquiescence without debate is a symptom of disinterest or disengagement. Informed and timely decisions are at the core of moving forward, inaction due either to lack of drive or analysis paralysis are detrimental to the team, the organization and the company. I recognize that there are matters that require 100% precision of execution the first time out. However, I have opted to perform enough analysis to identify the direction forward to the destination and start moving toward it prior to knowing exactly the most precise shortest path it. I found this approach to be more productive.
“I would like to stress that working in a distributed environment, endemic of a global organization, requires adherence to well defined and agreed upon rules of engagement. It also requires a proactive and positive attitude, at the grassroots, necessary to mitigate the structural impediments (i.e., different time zones, language and cultural barriers). It is essential that everyone embraces the organizational structure and its working methodology, and contributes to its continuous refinement.”
Why is it important, even crucial in your opinion, that a CTO / CIO is part of the management team of the board and preferably even has a seat at the board table?
“I have had the opportunity to be a member of the board of public and private companies, and have been around boards in representations of executive management. Traditionally, my perception is that boards, by and large, have tended to be over-weighted with expertise in general management, marketing, business development, sales and financial management. Furthermore, somewhat anachronistically, boards have tended to relegate product and technology expertise to a secondary role. I find this behavior certainly arcane but, most disturbingly, I see it as an acknowledgement that traditional board members are uncomfortable participating in a subject matter that they understand only marginally. However, given the increasingly pervasive role of technology in all elements that form and make a company, it is a disservice to the company itself to think that the knowledge and expertise contributed by executive management can simply be assumed by other members with little or largely tangential knowledge of the subject matter.
“I acknowledge, of course, that less traditional companies, those that were founded during the technological revolution, are much more inclined to have such expertise on their boards. But for these, as much as for the above, I would argue that they’d be best served by Executive Management and Board representations whose expertise spans the gamut of Tech as Support and Tech as the Product.”
Nic Di Iorio - CEO at NeoDev Technologies - Collaborative Leader
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