My first 30 days as CEO of a thriving software company

It’s fascinating how much you can learn in a month.

January 16, 2017 was the first day in my new job. Since then I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about our business, our people, and our culture. From my origins as a software engineer and developer, through to a career in developing and commercialising software products with Orion Health, I’ve always been fascinated by people, and how their talents can flourish given the right leadership and environment.

Taking over as CEO at Qrious has been no different. The markets we play in are rapidly changing with new technologies creating relentless disruption. Many businesses see threat in that pace of change, but for a software company like Qrious, disruption is a provocation leading to opportunity. And while some organisations struggle to stay relevant, maybe still working through their digital transformation, a few are clearly thriving.

I believe there are four key areas of excellence required for an organisation to thrive today.

1. Talented and passionate people

To attract smart, talented, innovative people is one thing. It’s another altogether to retain them. Organisations who succeed at this can build great advantage over their competitors. By successfully nurturing and rewarding talent, organisations create a clear path to better products and services for their customers.

Beyond that, today’s leading organisations free their people through less hierarchy and more empowerment. Our job is to build an environment where people thrive and work together to reach their full potential. From this, exciting and rewarding work is delivered.

Fewer individual heroes and more team success. It’s the baseline for a successful software company… and if there’s a secret sauce here at Qrious, I’m happy to report this is it. Working amongst our talented people has been a high point of my first month.

2. An Agile mindset – fast, flexible and adaptable

If disruption creates opportunity, it takes an organisation lean in their thinking to capitalise on it. Part of this is focusing on speed, time saving, and automation. But there’s also a cultural part, always aiming for self improvement, and with a constant desire to beat past performance.

Taking products and ideas to market faster and better every time builds a culture of innovation, where constant change is normal. And not just normal, but embraced and exploited. A willingness and urge to transform at pace, along with an understanding that true transformation never ends.

In the last few years we’ve seen this in our own sector, with data companies transforming in order to take advantage of the opportunities presented by big data. The next step is embracing the decline of the geographical boundaries that have too often restricted New Zealand organisations. We succeed by shedding the old and embracing the new, by knowing nothing is too precious to change, and by having the courage and commitment to do this, even when it’s difficult.

3. Excellence every day

You may be forgiven for assuming this is a given. But too many organisations settle for less. That’s how Apple broke Blackberry, or how Uber is doing the same in transport. It’s also how software companies from New Zealand such as Orion Health and Xero have taken slices out of the global market.

Excellence in your products and services has to be non-negotiable, underpinned by a constant focus on customer success. Successful organisations consistently deliver products that match their customer promise, no matter how big or small, difficult or easy. And in turn, it is the setting and achieving of these high bars that attracts the top talent – people want to work in an organisation renowned for customer success.

4. Smarts

For decades there was a traditional model for organisational intelligence. In some combination of products and people, processes and projects, all driven by discrete groups of profit centres, layers of organisations collected intelligence through a combination of self-awareness, institutional knowledge, and stored understanding. Traditional data warehousing and business intelligence software delivered some value by analysing organisational data.

Today’s thriving organisation adds an additional layer to make it smarter – big data. New technologies are causing a data explosion – among them mobility, wearables, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and connected devices.

This combination of traditional and new data is driving many innovations, and is helping build digitally enhanced and frictionless customer experiences. An organisation capable of unleashing the power of data across their entire business is one capable of evidence based decisions, and one willing and able to learn and adapt. In short, these are the organisations creating a data driven competitive advantage.

So what does the future hold?

When I consider all of this, I have enormous confidence in what this business will achieve.

At a time when opportunities around big data and analytics are becoming clearer, and when companies are exploiting the data opportunity to grow smarter, I believe Qrious is uniquely positioned to thrive. Qrious is a software company, with big data and advanced analytics in our DNA. Combined with the talent, innovation, and commitment I’ve seen in the last four weeks, I believe Qrious is building tremendous momentum, one that we can take to the world.

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