Nov 27 2007

Jump Right In

This approach to technology works if you have a savvy team and a smart strategy.

Photo: Mark Greenberg
Randall W. Brouckman
CEO, BSG Clearing Solutions

In my spare time — which seems harder and harder to find — I enjoy exhilarating activities like bungee jumping, white-water rafting and skiing. My pursuit of adventure has always helped me take a fresh approach to the various niches I’ve been associated with in the telecommunications industry.

For example, I helped transform BSG Clearing Solutions from a traditional telecom billing provider into a more dynamic company that addresses aspects of the new digital commerce and communications landscape.

Opposites Attract

As I look back on my technical and management career, I can think of a few “best decisions” I’ve made with respect to information technology investments. When I was a technical manager and later a senior executive, no doubt the first and often best hire I made was someone with strengths opposite mine. More specifically, I always try to hire, as soon as possible, an IT professional whose strengths complement my weaknesses. They worry about things so I don’t have to.

A couple of technology decisions in hindsight turned out to be wise. Back in the early 1990s, we decided to incorporate Global Positioning System and various mapping technologies into a complex dispatch and force management system used by tens of thousands of technicians across the country. The savings and value delivered were, and to this day remain, extensive.

More recently, we decided to rewrite a set of complex, high-performance transaction processing systems to more easily and rapidly roll out new service offerings. We considered various architecture alter­natives and made a bet on an open solution based on systems such as Linux and MySQL, which were not proven at the time. Now with our greatly reduced cost structure and flawlessly performing systems, the decision seems obvious and the results have exceeded our expectations.

Early Adopters Can Get Burned

My biggest IT mistake (and most costly personally) was trying to deploy an off-the-shelf, fully configurable, enterprise-grade, mobile applications suite seven years too early.

His Inner Geek

BizTech: On a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 means “I still use a slide rule” and 5 is “a total geek,” where do you fall?

“Fresh out of college with degrees in electrical and computer engineering, it is safe to say I was pretty high on the geek scale: a solid 4+. As time has passed, I am moving down the scale to a 3. I have three children who run circles around me with the speed and ease with which they can pick up and use new gadgets.” —Randall W. Brouckman

Simply put, the handheld processing power, networks, access to back-end corporate systems, and standardization of best business processes and practices were not mature enough.

Unfortunately, I spent millions of dollars to learn each of these hard lessons. Even today, the pieces are not fully in place for large corporations to maximize efficiency and improve remote field operations.

Given the rapid pace of technology change, it is difficult for senior executives with general management responsibilities to stay current and understand the far-reaching impacts of the latest innovations. That said, those who don’t surround themselves with folks who are technically current and savvy are putting their companies and potentially their customers (not to mention their own careers) at risk.

Randall W. Brouckman is CEO of BSG Clearing Solutions of San Antonio. The 300-employee company, which had $179.4 million in revenue last year, provides clearing, settlement, payment and financial risk management products and services to the telecommunications industry. Brouckman has spent more than 20 years in telecom, including jobs at Bellcore, Iridium, Telispark and WWS.