Our guest on the Thoughtful Software Podcast is business centric technology leader, Michael Keithley. Michael Keithley is the Chief Information Officer at United Talent Agency. UTA is one of the biggest talent agencies in the world. Michael has over 25 years of experience in the information technology field. He was named one of the top 100 CIO/CTO leaders in 2015 and we are so grateful to have him on the show today! We hope you enjoy this discussion on technology leadership and innovation.
Michael Keithley is an effective leader and manager with a proven track record of building technology teams to solve problems and drive business outcomes on a global basis. Michael is known for recruiting, developing, and retaining the best information technology workforce in the entertainment industry. Michael advises clients on emerging digital-related issues and is known for his ability to peer around the corner to leverage emerging technologies and their impact on existing customer experiences and business models.
He is an innovator, collaborator and problem solver who straddles both the CIO and CTO roles. A recognized leader in technology innovation known for discovering and incubating leading-edge technologies by establishing key partnerships with Silicon Valley’s premier technology companies, venture capital firms and startups.
What do we mean by a non-tech company? Don’t all companies have to be software first now? (1.12)
The difference is between bits and atoms. When you think about most tech companies that are either all software or primarily software based. There are a lot of cultural differences valuing speed and agility, the fact that your product is software, bits, means that there are unique properties. They can flow over the internet freely. They have zero marginal cost. They have network effects with a bunch of these kind of properties that tech companies have grown up with that non tech companies don't have and don't have a history or value that as much.
Non-tech companies deal with the physical world, atoms, and make up these physical, tangible objects. There's more friction between atom- based businesses than bit-based businesses.
Non-tech companies are later to the party and have a lot of legacy culture. That creates friction whereas tech companies just don’t have that right out of the gate. They are just fundamentally different.
The Innovator’s Dilemma (4.16)
Tech companies can disrupt tech companies quicker than non tech companies can disrupt each other. Now tech companies are going after non-tech companies too, for example, Google building phones.
Historically, non-tech companies had time, but because of software improvements, the common thread through it all is speed.
Digital Innovation vs digital transformation
Transformation is a digital transformation describes the process by which a company forms a strategy to implement technology to improve business and meet the ever-changing demands of the consumer.
A great example of this playing out in the tech world is the automotive industry. Tesla set out to create a computer with wheels. It’s been 10 years and the automotive industry still hasn’t caught up to Elon Musk’s vision.
Digital transformation is leveraging digital tools to fundamentally change or transform a business. It’s really difficult to transform. You have to use technology to radically improve your product.
How important is it for leadership to be digitally fluent? (13.09)
That kind of leadership paramount to even have a chance at digital transformation for older companies.
Without a leader that is fundamentally different, I can’t think of any successful leader that has made the pivot and move forward.
Innovation Culture (15.11)
Harley Davidson designed an electric bike and had users test it. They didn’t tell the users that it was electric. The feedback was incredible! In this example, the company gave their customers what they wanted, but also moved the world forward with technology.
It’s starting with the customer and working backwards.
Software can quickly replicate. You have flexibility and keep products fresh and bring new features. If your product is in hardware, you’re stuck.
For non-tech companies, who do they push boundaries and try new things? They need to look to Silicon Valley and adopt what they’re doing. It’s speed, agility, and flexibility that’s the most valuable.
Take the Wayne Gretzky appraoch, “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.”
Build vs Buy (22.58)
Should companies be fearful of building vs buying software? It can propel you forward or hold your company back. There is an aversion to doing custom developed software. The simple philosophy on how Michael makes those trade offs and the decision to build vs buy: If it's something that's core to your business that fundamentally differentiates your business for anybody else, you should have custom software for that. That’s where you can innovate.
Those fear areas that truly differentiate your business. That's where you really invest in custom software, that's where you can change the game. And make it very difficult for competitors to keep up with you.
The Fear of Acceleration (26.55)
There’s so much innovation and options, it’s hard to decide what to choose.
YOu have to figure out where the trends are going. Look to Silicon Valley and figure it out. If you have enough lead time, you can plan budget, strategies, and skillsets in order to know what you need.
Are people underestimating how rapidly technology is changing? 30.57
The pace of change is getting faster. Once the smartphone and cloud digital world started happening, people started to realize that they could have a smart intuitive interface at low switching costs. Consumer expectations and consumer tech so rapidly took over enterprise tech. That’s a huge underlying force for diving all of this change.
One of the issues we see is how tech companies fund projects vs how non-tech companies form projects. (33.00)
The mindset has to change and say we're going to start funding IT projects, the same way other tech companies fund their projects. It’s impossible to know what the budget for these kind of projects will be.
For Non-Tech Companies, should they outsource or hire their own development team? (35.50)
Instead of trying to recruit, hire, and staff a development team for the long haul, you can look externally and outsource engineering teams.
It's impossible for nontraditional tech companies to keep good developers because they’re constantly being recruited to new projects. It’s the Wild West right now for developers. They can work on the projects they want. Developers are high in demand. It will correct itself eventually.
Where do you think the puck is going in the people business? (41.00)
AI will replace repetitive jobs.
UTA is already representing podcasters and game developers. They’re always looking to represent people in whatever medium they’re at.
It all comes back to bits vs atoms.