This question was answered by Hector Aguilar, President of Technology at Okta in one of the sessions at Quora, a place where you share, gain knowledge and learn from others.
Every company, no matter the industry, is becoming a technology company. With this shift comes new responsibility for leaders to identify tools that give their teams an edge versus which ones distract the team from broader goals. Rather than simply purchasing and implementing tools you hear from others are the “latest and greatest,” Chief Technology Officers (CTOs) should stay skeptical: work to find the ones that will make a positive impact on your team.
I like to say “if you have a nail, then look for a hammer.” This translates to seeking out tools that solve a very specific issue your team faces in the current moment or will soon face. Strategize for the long term, but solve short-term issues with new technology to maximize Return on Investment (ROI). Technology advances at a crazy speed, so don’t jump on the bandwagon too early. The best and most necessary tool suggestions come organically from teammates who suggest something we need — they are closest to the product and have a pulse on daily challenges along with solutions that could help move the needle.
An example of this happening at Okta: one of the most productive tools we’ve ever brought on was surfaced by an engineer who told us about a very unique problem he faced. He was spending copious amounts of time trying to figure out what caused unusual behavior in databases. He discovered a database performance monitoring tool that enabled quick troubleshooting. We brought it on to try it, and at first, I was skeptical about its function and usefulness. This particular engineer demonstrated its benefits, gradually swaying and convincing me of its purpose on our team. Now it’s one of the most critical tools we use and I can’t imagine our day-to-day work without it. This example also illustrates the importance of listening to other team members (and of not being afraid to push back on your managers) when it comes to seeding and testing new ideas.
Of course, hackathons also come to mind in relation to finding tools that will impact your team the most. Engineers can use their hackathon time to evaluate new technology and new tools that might be very expensive and not practical to try otherwise. They can spend 48 hours during the event testing one particular technology to see if it’s worth exploring further or whether it’s not going to provide them the value they need.