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Ask the Experts: Long-Term Tech Thinking

By March 9, 2015Article

Editor’s note: In our ongoing series showcasing software leaders’ perspectives on important topics, we focus this week on strategic thinking.

Question of the week: Is long-term thinking dead in the quickly evolving tech world? If not, in what way is the perspective, time range or strategy of “long-term” changing?

Staggeringly substantial investments

–        Eric Pelander, Partner, Waterstone Management Group

No, long-term thinking in the tech world is not dead! Look at the focus, energy and investment going into long-term technology initiatives … ones that will require years for return, but when the return comes it could be staggeringly substantial. One example in the telecommunications world is NFV – Network Functions Virtualization. Telecommunication service providers are replacing expensive proprietary network equipment with virtualized machines – standard servers running software that virtualizes network functions. They are willing to undergo tremendous investment and disruption for the promise of more operational flexibility at lower capital and operating cost points. The investments in Big Data, the Internet of Things and mobile, to name a few, are more evidence of long-term thinking. 

Certainly there can be big differences between companies in terms of those that are eager to invest for the long term and those that cannot or will not. For every Google betting on automated vehicles, robotics and other long-term initiatives, there are legacy companies struggling to maintain R&D budgets or fluidly change their business models. But that has been true for ages. With every new technology there are winners, there are losers, and there is plenty of disruption. And the buggy company that refused to think long-term got replaced by the automobile manufacturers. Long-term thinking is alive and well in the tech world. 

Operate at “cloud speed”

–        Darren Cunningham, vice president of marketing, SnapLogic

Fail fast. Fail often. Growth hack. Be lean. This is certainly the mantra of Silicon Valley in 2015. I’ve even seen an executive use the term “stra-tactical” without cracking a smile. 

It’s not that long-term thinking is dead, it’s that the pace of innovation and the product (and service) life cycle has dramatically accelerated. New releases are now expected to be delivered in days or weeks, not months or years in today’s subscription economy. So as both customers and vendors seek to operate at “cloud speed,” it’s increasingly going to be data-driven decision making that will drive differentiation and ensure that long-term (and short-term) strategies are well executed. 

Plan for the long term, but establish an analytical culture and capture, manage and monitor the data you need to quickly correct your course as needed.  

Eric Pelander is a partner in and co-founder of Waterstone Management Group, a consulting firm that advises technology investors and senior management teams of technology-led clients on strategy and related execution initiatives. Eric’s personal work with clients has focused on growth strategy and execution, including go-to-market and services improvements. Contact Eric at and follow him on LinkedIn.

Darren Cunningham is vice president of marketing at SnapLogic. 


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