Taking Apart Tech CEOs

Lundquist: Eric Lundquist sketches some do's and don'ts for the modern tech exec.

What a week! I spent most of it flying about the country talking with some of the top vendor CEOs in the tech business. In three days, I had the chance to sit down with John Chambers, Hector Ruiz, Bob Beauchamp and Bruce Claflin. While well be carrying their individual interviews in eWeek print and online over the next several weeks, Ive decided that, just like Dr. Frankenstein, I can assemble the modern technology executive from a few key parts.

The mea culpa. This is a key idea. In the past, executives were always quick to take credit for success and foist blame for failures on some group of (usually recently fired) past management teams. This is no longer the case. Now, theyre all willing to say they made some bets that failed and are now moving on. This is refreshing and probably a sign of maturity. For the exec less inclined to speak

Latin, you can replace "mea culpa" with "mistakes were made."

The almighty customer. OK, customers are important; I will agree with that. The decline and fall of the dot-com era was littered with companies producing products that no one would buy. Now every conversation starts with what customers are saying, the substantial power now being wielded by the customer, or the need to vet new ideas and services through the customer filter.

Without a doubt, the customer orientation will allow you to bring important improvements to your current product line. What could be missed are the products that customers dont know they need but are great ideas that need corporate muscle to make happen. The history of the Sony Walkman (www.sony.net/Fun/SH) isnt one of focus groups and point release improvements but of a revolutionary product built from a single idea. Maybe we are simply in an economic trough when big bets are being pulled off the table. There are plenty of solid product upgrades available, as we found in last weeks eWeek Excellence Awards. Theres nothing wrong with that, but Ill mark the return of the technology-driven marketplace with the advent of several unique and great products all at once.