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The CEO Must Be Captain of His Software Organization

Brandon M. Lewis
Jul 5, 2023 1:02:28 PM

While the role of the CEO has often been comparable to that of a statesman, representing the company in public, managing its upper organization, and steering vital strategic decisions, the modern CEO needs to add another function to her repertoire – she must be the captain of her software factory. It's become a tired and true saying that software is eating the world and the role of the CEO must adapt to this new digitalized reality, where software can relegate incumbents into obscurity and defects can irreparably damage reputations.

CEO: Captain of Digital Transformation


One of the core responsibilities of CEOs is to observe the company's environment, detect trends, and fend off disruption – understanding that regardless of the status quo now, the future likely holds something different in store for the company. In this sense, a CEO can be understood as the captain of a large ship. With great inertia, companies are often not easy to steer and take a concerted, disciplined effort and as such the captain needs to have vision beyond that which is immediately in front of her ship. Within the opaque realm of software production and IT, this is doubly true. Major technological innovations are set to disrupt almost every industry. And given the complexity of large software initiatives, it is not always easy to steer the bulky ship through these rocky waters.

Let's delve into how CEOs can best guide their software organizations to sustained success.

Setting the Vision

A good captain must be on the lookout for icebergs, even if he considers his ship impenetrable. No one wants to go down like the Titantic or – for that matter – Blockbuster, Kodak, or MySpace. Many companies have been lulled into a false sense of security by presuming market conditions will remain the same. A focus on maintaining a competitive advantage of profit margins or costs may distract CEOs from larger dangers looming in the darkness, namely creative destruction

After surveying the market for potential disruptive innovations, CEOs need to consider the appropriate response and level of digitalization, which can range from merely incremental digitalization to developing entirely new business models. While a more gradual digitalization can be very important, often times chief executives can delegate it to others.

Steady Hand

But the rapidly changing conditions in many industries require more aggressive digital transformations, such as developing new products or even entirely new business models  Because transformations of this scale affect the entire business, they demand executive attention. Some consulting firms even advise creating a dedicated office to ensuring digital transformation projects are on-track. It is important for CEOs to consider not only his organization's willingness to transform, but also its ability to. Many corporations may have institutional inertia against innovative measures, but even those companies fully dedicated to outfitting themselves for the economy of the future may lack the requisite software developers and IT specialists to get the job done.

Unfortunately, neither the best intentions nor throwing money at software development are sure to avoid failures resulting in embarrassing headlines and potentially the top executive's ousting, as both Lidl and Herbert Diess. have all too painfully come to experience. In addition to setting a bold vision for the company, managing directors may need to redefine and restructure various roles and responsibilities. But in order to achieve any larger digital transformation, executives need to be able to achieve oversight and strategic control. Unfortunately, corporate software development is very opaque and inefficient. As much as 80-90% of software developer hours go toward technical debt, defect fixing, etc, instead of value creation. 

This is why it's vital for CEOs to have software process mining. The Seerene Digital Boardroom provides CEOs with KPIs and software development visualizations that create transparency in the company's so-called software factory. With this, they can maintain a bird's eye view, but also dig down into problems if necessary when they arise.

Software Map




While the degree may be dependent on the corporation and industry, almost all companies must digitalize. The scale of the digitalization and the readiness of the company will determine how much direct involvement of the CEO is needed. But regardless of this, it is important that the CEO maintain a strategic overview of the company's digital efforts. Software process mining can empower CEOs – not only by providing him with strategic oversight of his software factory, but also by helping to optimize the output of the company's software developer resources and identify snags before they endanger entire projects. If you're interested in finding out more about software process mining, reach out to us today:



Addendum: Here at Seerene, we're serious about revolutionizing corporate software development. That's why we partner with the Hasso Plattner Institute, Roland Berger, Microsoft, and the German Deep Tech Group to host exclusive executive summits where CEOs, CIOs, and other leading managers and experts gather for an open and confidential dialogue on the most important topics in software and IT. Find out more here and message us if you'd like to join us at our next summit.

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