In internet time, a lot has happened in the last 16 years. When I started Adage Technologies, faxing was commonplace, the Netscape browser was still in vogue, and many still "dialed-in" for internet access.
As technology continues to evolve rapidly, fast forward 16 years into the present—we have learned a few things. Here are my big lessons learned from our 16-year journey at Adage Technologies:
1. Our clients have day jobs
This took years to learn. When a customer asked us what they needed to do to make the project successful our reply would simply tell us what you want, and we can make it happen. What eventually was learned (albeit painfully) was that the customer needs to know that people on their side need to plan for the time it will take to manage the project internally and block off time even if we are doing all of the work. Time must be consciously allocated because they need to be with us every step of the way in the project making decisions.
2. The Devil is in the data
While we have always worked in a heavy web world, ours has always been weighted towards data-driven sites. In the early days it was web applications, portals, extranets or whatever you wanted to call them in 2001. Creating, reading, updating, deleting, and migrating data is tricky business. One should never underestimate the consequences of bad data or the challenge of migrating data from one system to another.
3. Integration is the name of the game
Web services, APIs (Soap and Rest), etc. have been available since the inception of our business but whereas we were building more custom applications in our early days, now our job is to bring a variety of tools and platforms to create a solution for our customers and integrate them together.
4. Technology fads come and go
Digital transformation, web services, CRM, ERP, SaaS, hosting, CMS, ecommerce, mobile apps, cloud, MVC, artificial intelligence, etc. are all relevant in the overall digital world. Because big money is involved, at every turn, our industry likes to hype up the next big thing. While all of the things I mentioned above have influenced what we do here at Adage, none of them alone have overtaken the industry. We have learned to be careful about jumping on the new, hot buzzwords because invariably it is a mix of technologies that we must bring to the table as a solution provider to best serve our clients.
5. Technical debt comes due
In technology, we need to be hyper sensitive to this ever increasing challenge. What might be the hottest framework going this year will potentially obsolete in 3 - 5 years. Over time, it becomes increasingly difficult to train employees on both old and new technology as often they are very different. Although the work may not include new features, we need to keep our clients informed of the hazards of not refactoring code or investing in proven frameworks as the cost to maintain increases over time.
6. Making the right partner decisions is critical to success
We do not take partnering decisions lightly. Because we see our job as coming to the table with products and solutions that can serve our customers, we spend time vetting products to ensure they are providing the necessary functionality with the appropriate value. We also examine partner leadership and direction to ensure they share our values and direction.
7. Don't try to be everything to everybody
As technology continues to evolve and further specialize so must we. While opportunities abound to be involved in everything (see #6 above) we need to focus on what is going to provide the best value for our clients and know what we do well. For example, Adage strictly uses Microsoft's .NET framework as our development framework. If someone wants to build a solution in PHP or Java, we simply try to refer them to someone who can help them. Knowing our strengths and weaknesses helps everyone.
8. We're not a fit for everyone
This too took many years to learn. We started out very small, but we have adapted and evolved into an organization that serves mostly mid-market customers. This means we were no longer a fit for some customers we previously served. Also, we need to match up with the organizations we call our customers and partners from a cultural standpoint. I have found that from the top down organizations work and act like those in leadership positions as they are taking cues from their leadership. Like any relationship, if our organizations are not aligned, it can be difficult to make the relationship work.
9. Start inward
We have worked hard to build a solid culture at Adage, and we will always have work to do. Making sure our employees match our core values, feel engaged, and rewarded appropriately makes allows them to better serve our customer base. Therefore, we will continue to do the best we can to make Adage a great place to work and subsequently a provider of high-quality work for our clients.
As our journey continues, we will learn many more lessons. And we look forward to each and every one of them.