The Leader of Your Product and Technology Initiative Needs These Qualities

The Leader of Your Product and Technology Initiative Needs These Qualities

The Leader of Your Product and Technology Initiative Needs These Qualities

Patrick Reemts

Patrick Reemts

Patrick Reemts defines, packages and delivers account originations and consumer authentication solutions for TSYS. Previously, Reemts worked at ID Analytics, where he ran its wholly owned subsidiary, SageStream, a credit reporting agency.

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I used to work for someone who used the phrase, "Remember where we parked, kids" as a way to remind everyone of original goals and objectives. Since this is a 'part two' of a three-part series, let's do that.

So where did we park? In part one, we discussed that a good, old-fashioned inventory was a great way to start a large technology overhaul. Today, we'll talk about who should lead such an endeavor.

Where to start

The first step: Find yourself a good set of ears, not mouths. When tackling a modernization effort, everyone will have opinions on what to do — your technologists will want to tackle things logically, your legal team will put risk mitigation at the forefront, your sales team will want you to create buzzword technology to talk about, and your product team has an already-committed roadmap. Find the leaders in these departments who are brilliant compromisers. Who resolve conflicts with actual debate skills and not authoritarian methods. People who have a track record of strong empathy-based decision making.

Put them all on a team, call it 'cross-functional' and get out of their way. No really — get out of their way. You've put them on the team because of a successful history, so trust that they will be detailed, but holistic. Cautious, but optimistic. Long-term thinkers, but driven by completion. Try to clear as much of their workload as possible and fully commit to the team. And whatever you do, don't second guess every little detail. Remember that the team will spend far more time with far more diverse perspectives on each decision point than any one single person (which includes you).

Pitfalls to watch for

For this cross-functional team, however, be cautious of a few traps:

The Consensus Builder. This person is paralyzed by disagreement. But cross-functional teams do not require 100-percent agreement; they simply require 100-percent transparency and an ability to understand a position. Avoid setting up team structures that require unanimity.

The Evangelist. This company zealot may have willed his or her way up the ladder by pure loud energy. Cross-functional teams with these types of overbearing fanatics get led down a biased path, and teams that have more than one Evangelist often devolve into closed-ear shouting matches driven by well-intended positions.

The Naysayer. One of the most important skills on a cross-functional team during a major overhaul is the ability to know where pitfalls lie. But that skill must be balanced. There's a big difference between carefully navigating a large ship through iceberg-laden waters and just leaving the ship at the dock because there's a perception of insurmountable danger.

Pitfalls to Watch For (Infographic)

You need a leader

Now for the last part — and this can be unpopular — you must decide on an ultimate leader. This person should be responsible, transparent and publicly responsible for the outcomes of the work. In other words, the person with whom the buck stops.

The fact is that all high-functioning teams will hit a moment where a tiebreaker is needed on a decision or direction. And that must be one person. The reason for this need might surprise you — for speed. In large projects, management intellectually knows, but often forgets, just how many decisions can be required in a single day. In order to keep the backlogs full, the team working, and the burndown charts burning down, you must be able to resolve disputes as fast as possible. And that requires a structure that allows for debate, but just as importantly, allows for single-threaded decision making — and fast. Think of her as a 'textable executive' or an 'instant messenger manager.' Someone with whom you can instantly communicate and get instant results.

So your organization is on the hook to deliver a huge technology project. Where do you start? Know what you have today. And get your best listeners — from everywhere — to lead the effort.

Stay tuned for part three of this series, where we'll cover how you may be able to fund large-scale projects.

Read part one of this series on why to start with an inventory of your product and technology strategy.

The statements and opinions of the writer do not necessarily reflect those of TSYS.

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Patrick Reemts

Patrick Reemts defines, packages and delivers account originations and consumer authentication solutions for TSYS. Previously, Reemts worked at ID Analytics, where he ran its wholly owned subsidiary, SageStream, a credit reporting agency. There, he launched one of the most successful alternative credit product sets in the lending industry, including the first-ever credit score using convolutional neural networks.

Prior to ID Analytics, Reemts spent almost 10 years at a variety of the largest U.S. consumer lending institutions, including Discover Financial Services, Wells Fargo and HSBC. His focus has primarily been in managing credit and fraud risk, new account acquisition systems and portfolio profitability. Inside of large financial institutions, Reemts has built enterprise class risk decision engines, leveraged machine learning solutions and implemented big data distributed platforms.

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