AKF Turns 10 – And It’s Still Not About the Tech
The caller ID was blocked but Marty had been expecting the call. Three “highly connected” people – donors, political advisers and “inner circle” people – had suggested AKF could help. It was October 2013 and Healthcare.gov had launched only to crash when users tried to sign up. President Obama appointed Jeffrey Zients to mop up the post launch mess. Once the crisis was over, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released its postmortem citing inadequate capacity planning, software coding errors, and lack of functionality as root causes. AKF’s analysis was completely different – largely because we think differently than most technologists. While our findings indicated the bottlenecks that kept the site from scaling, we also identified failures in leadership and a dysfunctional organization structure. These latter, and more important, problems prevented the team from identifying and preventing recurring issues.
We haven’t always thought differently. Our early focus in 2007 was to help companies overcome architectural problems related to scale and availability. We’ve helped our clients solve some of the largest and challenging problems ever encountered – cyber Monday ecommerce purchasing, Christmas day gift card redemption, and April 15th tax filings. But shortly after starting our firm, we realized there was something common to our early engagements that created and sometimes turbocharged the technology failures. This realization, that people and processes – NOT TECHNOLOGY– are the causes of most failures led us to think differently. Too often we see technology leaders focusing too much on the technology and not enough on leading, growing, and scaling their teams.
We challenge the notion that technology leaders should be selected and promoted based on their technical acumen. We don’t accept that a technical leader should spend most of her time making the biggest technical decisions. We believe that technical executives, to be successful, must first be a business executive with great technical and business acumen. We teach teams how to analyze and successfully choose the appropriate architecture, organization, and processes to achieve a business outcome. Product effort is meaningless without a measurable and meaningful business outcome and we always put outcomes, not technical “religion” first.
If we can teach a team the “AKF way” the chance of project and business success increases dramatically. This may sound like marketing crap (did we mention we are also irreverent?), but our clients attest to it. This is what Terry Chabrowe, CEO eMarketer, said about us:
AKF served as our CTO for about 8 months and helped us make huge improvements in virtually every area related to IT and engineering. Just as important, they helped us identify the people on our team who could move into leadership positions. The entire AKF team was terrific. We’d never have been able to grow our user base tenfold without them.
A recent post claimed that 93% of successful companies abandon their original strategy. This is certainly true for AKF. Over the past 10 years we’ve massively changed our strategy of how we “help” companies. We’ve also quadrupled our team size, worked with over 350 companies, written three books, and most importantly made some great friendships. Whether you’ve read our books, engaged with our company, or connected with us on social media, thanks for an amazing 10 years. We look forward to the next 10 years, learning, teaching, and changing strategies with you.