Being a leader in software development, being cutting edge when things change so fast, is what you want need to stay ahead of the pack. Being a leader in business often means the opposite.

‘Leadership’ seems to imply leading on all fronts, stepping into the unknown, going first. But realistically, business leaders have wide-ranging responsibilities, putting this approach at odds with good business practice. Leaders have to hold back, watch, learn and then follow, particularly when purchasing software.

New software is a double-edged sword in the business world – it could give you a competitive advantage, providing additional functionality, but there is also an enormous risk involved.

Say you are the leader of a large corporate with 3 000 computers and decide you want to take advantage of a new-look operating system. The vendor claims it’s faster and networks better, but the user interface is completely different from the environment your users are familiar with. It would be like giving a soccer team a rugby ball and pretending everything is the same.

Imagine 3 000 employees who cannot figure out how to get anything done – your business would stutter and then stall. Imagine then having to uninstall and reinstall the workable version. The time and financial repercussions of wanting to be a ‘leader’ in terms of software have to be questioned.

And so, generally, the leaders of large businesses recognise the risks and stick to tried and tested software, even if they are two versions behind. They will take on ‘new’ software once the bugs are fixed and the updates are complete.

This is worth noting for software developers. While being a leader in your industry requires innovation and originality, you need to consider who your target market is.

If you’re aiming for young dynamic businesses, your products and services can be ‘never seen before’, but if you want to work with established businesses, you may need to reconsider. You may have designed the perfect solution for an international conglomerate, but if it isn’t established and recognised with a solid track record, you are fishing in the wrong waters.

Sometimes leadership is about more than leading the way. Instead of being the first to step into the future, it can be about being the person who can look at the future and see both the potential and the pitfalls.

Author: Kevin Phillips CA(SA) is Managing Director of idu Software