What The CTO Wants YOU to Know?

I just read a book by Ram Charan What The CEO Wants You to Know? Using Business Acumen to understand how your company really works. Having grown up in India, the author has earned D.B.A and M.B.A from Harvard Business School, and has taught at Harvard and Northwestern.

In the book, Ram coined a new term “business acumen” to describe the fundamental capabilities for business success. He claims, “Every business is the same inside, cutting through to cash margin, velocity, growth, and customers.”

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Here are more quotes from the book:

When you come down to it, the business is very simple. There are universal laws of business that apply whether you sell fruit from a stand or are running a Fortune 500 company. Successful business leaders know them. They have what I call business acumen – the ability to understand the building blocks of how a one person operation or a very big business makes money. You, too, may learn the fundamentals of cash, margin, velocity, return on investment, growth, and customers.

You can develop your own business acumen. While these ideas may sound complex, they are not. Think more about your best teacher in a subject like chemistry. Once you understand that the atom was made up of protons, electrons, and neutrons, you then had the fundamentals to solve any problem in chemistry. I want to show you that it’s the same with business . When you know the fundamentals, you can “get” the basics for how any business works.

This made me think what the CTO wants you to know, and what “technical acumen” is. Here is my paraphrased version:

When you come down to it, the technology is very simple. There are universal laws of technology that apply whether you develop a device driver or are designing a large scale cloud application for top 10 websites. Successful technical leaders know them. They have what I call technical acumen – the ability to understand the building blocks of how a one person project or a very big project delivers in time on budget. You, too, may learn the fundamentals of computer architecture, programming languages, algorithm, data structure, design pattern, tooling, and process.

You can develop your own technical acumen. While these ideas may sound complex, they are not. Think more about your best teacher in a subject like chemistry. Once you understand that the molecule was made up of atoms, you then had the fundamentals to solve any problem in chemistry. I want to show you that it’s the same with technology. When you know the fundamentals, you can “get” the basics for how any software project works. Note: I changed the atom to molecule in my version because chemistry is really about molecule.

I know we may all have our own versions of technical acumen. What is your version of “technical acumen?” Please feel free to share.

BTW, what VMware CEO and CTO really want you to know now is the VMforce Live Webcast tomorrow morning 10:30AM. :-) If you haven’t signed up yet, please feel free to do so here.

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2 Comments

  1. Latha
    Posted March 9, 2011 at 3:10 am | Permalink

    Steve, This is very interesting. And I have to agree with you. But dont our technical leaders get a bit intimidated with the fast changing technology. For e.g., a person writing device drivers may not really feel comfortable when they are thrown into an application building business. What is your comment on this?

  2. Posted March 9, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Great question Latha,

    You are absolutely right that a software engineer on device drive may not be comfortable moving to application development. It may take a little time but I don’t think it’s a difficult process because fundamentals are still the same. Thanks!

    -Steve

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