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Arvind Thakur
Monday, June 2, 2008
On the face of it, the management challenges for the major segments of the software industry viz off-the-shelf packaged products, enterprise solutions and services look different. For companies providing off-the-shelf products, success lies in its emphasis on marketing, while enterprise solutions providers depend on partnering. It can be argued, on the other hand, that IT services companies need to be completely “people focused.” Not withstanding these special areas of focus, there are 10 common themes that remain important to the successful running of a software company.

1. An inspiring vision
Without doubt, people are the main assets in any software firm. To get these assets to deliver their best, they need to be aligned to an inspiring vision and everyone aligning to this brings out the best in them and produces unbelievable results.

2. Culture of innovation
Anyone can start a software company. The barriers to entry are low, particularly in IT services. Good ideas and business models easily attract funding. Speed, therefore, is of essence and the only way to stay ahead and survive is to continuously innovate. The culture of innovation instills a sense of creativity and risk taking, with a heightened tolerance for failure.

3. Ability to take risks
To keep pace with rapid changes in the environment, it is important to take risks. Software businesses need to build on multiple options and prepare for uncertainties. The culture of innovation allows people to take risks. With such a culture the organization is not scared of failures, but learns from them.

4. Differentiate
In the fast-paced knowledge industry, where market forces continuously bring in new players, innovation to continuously built product and services differentiation, shapes competitive and operational performance. Keeping one finger on the market pulse to be able to identify the differentiator is what sets a company apart.

5. Branding and Marketing
Often ignored by the services industry, Branding and Marketing is perhaps the most important external activity of the company. The key differentiators in the company’s business, product or services need to be communicated effectively so that potential services seekers can recall these offerings.

6. Pick your battles
Organizations need to know their strengths and invest in building those as core competencies. IT solutions are complex and it is not necessary to build all the capabilities within the organization. Companies need to know when to partner.

7. Invest in People
In today’s context, competition is not only for business but the best talent. Winning the race for talent is crucial for success. The motivators for software professionals are unique. What is essential is a great culture which promotes growth, development and provides for a challenging and fulfilling environment. Investing in this environment is the key to success.

8. Continuous Communication
Growth leads to the addition of new people and natural attrition brings in new faces continuously into the organisation. The vision, goals and aspirations of a company need to be regularly reinforced through continuous communication so that the workforce remains aligned to the values and beliefs of the organisation. Continuous communication is essential and brings in a sense of belongingness.

9. Delivery Excellence
Flawless delivery is a base assumption for any software company but we all know that software development often encounters problems. These relate to quality, timeliness and costs. In most cases, timeliness of delivery are most important.

10. Exemplary Leadership
Successful software companies are characterised by exemplary leaders. Successful leaders create a culture within their organisations that attracts and retains talent. They are able to communicate effectively their vision and articulate a cohesive strategy to achieve it.

The author is CEO of NIIT Technologies
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