What Makes a Company a "Tech Company"

We’ve argued before that construction in itself is a technology. The ability to melt steel at scale and erect cities and roads was a major innovation at the turn of the century, and it’s one that we largely take for granted today. Without the innovations that took place in the materials and methods of construction, Facebook, Google, and Amazon would not have been possible.

Let’s take a moment to all collectively pat ourselves on the back.

But, resting on our laurels is not going to get us to the future. In fact, many argue that construction has not done enough innovation since, especially compared to other companies in the broader economy. In today’s world, it is important for every company to be a technology company, but what does that actually entail?

Ted Schadler, VP and principal analyst at market research company Forrester, describes a tech company as one that “builds technology for customers to use.” Companies whose sole purpose is to develop and scale innovate technology are realistically the only companies that should carry the “Tech Company” title, though many wish to achieve the status.

In fact, many organizations consider themselves to be tech companies because it tells customers, employees, investors, and partners they are innovative. But innovation is a slippery term. It is obvious for companies to want to be innovated and considered stewards of technology, but many underestimate what it really involves.

So, what does it mean to be a real tech company?

Schadler clarifies that companies which wouldn’t be considered tech companies are those that buy business services that sit on top of technology. This means that while many companies have invested in technology implementation, they are still described by what they offer to customers, which if you really think about it, IBM and Facebook provide two very different things to customers.

Not only do non-tech companies want to look like tech companies, but they want to function like them too. In order to do this, they must utilize similar technologies being used by the real tech companies, like analytics and agile methods. Companies operating in industries that aren’t seen as traditionally technology-centric, such as construction or food, are not an exception to this.

Chris Andrews, CIO of fast-casual chain Pei Wei Asian Cuisine, explains “you have to be realistic about who you are and how you’re going to use technology. Companies that want to expand beyond their industry better equipped with technology, need to be strategic and honest.” This is necessary if companies wish to promote change and move forward technologically, and is something that, though challenging at times, is important to securing status of a tech company.

Companies that cavalierly toy with the “tech company” moniker are playing a dangerous game. The technology industry is known for having few rules and regulations, and any issues that arise tend to be self-inflicted. Companies like Facebook secure themselves under a safety net by disguising as a tech company. Though they recently released a business communication software in October 2016, Workplace, moving them further into tech territory, Ted Schadler still considers them to be a publisher and communication company rather than a tech company.

It is true that over time the fine line between a tech company and a non-tech company could become next to impossible to locate. But, although becoming a tech company is unlikely, it is worth pursuing. Even with the added responsibilities and criticisms, pursuing innovation– no matter the pain– is what built the world we see today.

For construction, we know that what we do today will impact generations to come. We must develop the skills and knowledge to advance the industry as we continue towards future years and new advances.  

Alexis Turner