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Starting a Tech Business: A Practical Guide for Anyone Creating or Designing Applications or Software



Starting a Tech Business: A Practical Guide for Anyone Creating or Designing Applications or Software

Alex Cowan

ISBN: 978-1-118-20555-6 April 2012 288 Pages


The non-technical guide to building a booming tech-enabled business

Thinking of starting a technology-enabled business? Or maybe you just want to increase your technology mojo so you can do your job better? You do not need to learn programming to participate in the development of today’s hottest technologies. But there are a few easy-to-grasp foundation concepts that will help you engage with a technical team. Starting a Tech Business explains in practical, actionable terms how to

  • formulate and reality test new ideas
  • package what you learn into frameworks that are highly actionable for engineers
  • understand key foundation concepts about modern software and systems
  • participate in an agile/lean development team as the ‘voice of the customer’

Even if you have a desire to learn to program (and I highly recommend doing whatever unlocks your ‘inner tinkerer’), these foundation concepts will help you target what exactly you want to understand about hands-on technology development. While a decade ago the barriers to creating a technology-enabled business required a pole vault, getting started today only requires a determined step in the right direction. Starting a Tech Business supplies the tools prospective entrepreneurs and business enterprises need to avoid common pitfalls and succeed in the fast-paced world of high-tech business. Successful execution requires thoughtful, evidence-based product formulation, well-articulated design, economic use of systems, adaptive management of technical resources, and empathetic deployment to customers. Starting a Tech Business offers practical checklists and frameworks that business owners, entrepreneurs, and professionals can apply to any tech-based business idea, whether you’re developing software and products or beginning a technology-enabled business. You’ll learn:

1. How to apply today’s leading management frameworks to a tech business

2. How to package your product idea in a way that’s highly actionable for your technical team

3. How to ask the right questions about technology selection and product architecture

4. Strategies to leverage what your technology ecosystem has to offer

5. How to carefully define the roles on your team, and then effectively evaluate candidates

6. The most common disconnects between engineers and business people and how to avoid them

7. How you can apply process design to your tech business without stifling creativity

8. The steps to avoid the most common pitfalls tech founders encounter

Now is one of the best times to start a technology-enabled business, and anyone can do it with the right amount and kind of preparation. Starting a Tech Business shows you how to move a product idea to market quickly and inexpensively—and to tap into the stream of wealth that a tech business can provide.


Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

Who Should Read This? Why? xiii

What Is a Technology System? xv

Leveraging Industry Shifts xvii

What Will I Get out of These Chapters? xviii

Who Is the Author? xxvi

Chapter 1 The Idea: Confront the Lawn Gnome of Indolence 1

Conception 1

Reality Testing 3

Footprint 25

Platforms 26

Engaging Moonlighters 28

Beta Customers 30

Checklist 33

Specialty Reading by Topic 33

Chapter 2 The Strategy: Saddle the Racehorse of Blind Progress 35

What Strategy? 35

Squaring the Four Ps 36

Company Strategy 40

More on Catalysts 47

Iterative Management 48

Bringing It All Together 56

Checklist 60

Specialty Reading by Topic 61

Chapter 3 The Product: Pin the Butterfly of Incoherence 63

Thinking Like a Designer 63

User Stories 67

Using the MVC Framework for a High-Level Design 73

The View 76

The Model 86

The Controller 93

Iterative Learning and Design 95

Pulling It All Together 96

Checklist 97

Specialty Reading by Topic 98

Chapter 4 The Architecture: Unravel the Python of Monolithic Architecture 99

Industrial Revolution 2.0 99

Designing an Architecture 100

Understanding Integration 102

Architecture Piece Parts at Enable Quiz 104

Evaluating Piece Parts 115

Understanding Open Source 117

Understanding Development Tools 119

Checklist 128

Specialty Reading by Topic 128

Chapter 5 The Team: Dodge the Magpie of Discord 129

Who Are These Software People? 129

Roles and Skill Sets at Enable Quiz 133

Evaluating New Hires 142

Evaluating Third-Party Firms 148

Motivation 151

Going Offshore 152

Contracting 155

Internal Tools 155

Checklist 158

Specialty Reading by Topic 159

Chapter 6 Getting to Beta: Discipline the Chihuahua of Unruly Development 161

From Here to There 161

Planning at Enable Quiz 166

The Reality 176

Documentation 180

Checklist 191

Specialty Reading by Topic 192

Chapter 7 Beta! Slaying the Hydra of Operational Readiness 193

Process, Process, Process 193

Process Example: Enable Quiz 200

You Are My Beta 217

Checklist 220

Specialty Reading by Topic 220

Chapter 8 Scaling the Business: Riding the Whale of Scale 221

The Launch: Is It Working? 221

Partnerships 228

Focus, Focus, Focus 233

The Chasm and the Hockey Stick 235

Managing Feedback at Enable Quiz 240

Learning When (and How) to Say No 241

Post-Mortems 243

Scaling 244

What Now? 245

Checklist 247

Specialty Reading by Topic 248

Index 249