How to run a technology project like a poker pro

The last thing a financial institution embarking on a new technology project would want to do is gamble.

That said, a few lessons from America’s premier gambling event apply quite well to development projects. I was reminded of this when I saw the latest World Series of Poker Main Event champion had been crowned (23-year-old Ryan Riess won the championship – and $8.4 million on Tuesday).

There are many playing styles that work for poker pros like Riess – some fold many hands before the betting turns heavy, while others fold very few. Some are aggressive and some are more conservative. But they all share some attributes that help them excel – and that make sense on a development project, as well.

1. They leverage their strengths.

In poker, strength can come from several factors: Having good cards, having a lot of chips, getting to bet last on a particular hand, and having established a history of wining play, to name a few. Top players use those strengths to win a few extra hands – often turning losing sessions into wins, or small wins into big ones.

A financial institution enters a technology project with a certain number of strengths, too.  You probably know what your systems do well and what they struggle with, for instance. Adding the input of a smart consultative partner, one that can use experience and outside perspective to spot even more of your organization’s strengths, can really help you find an edge in technology.

2. They know the odds.

Serious poker players will tell you that the game isn’t really gambling when played well. Yes, there is some chance involved, but good players know the odds that their flush card will appear and will bet or fold appropriately. “If it’s gambling, why do the same players win consistently?” they ask.

In a development project, knowing the odds means being able to evaluate your technology needs — and the effort needed to fill those needs. Is upgrading an ancillary system worth it? How much is a marked improvement in online customer experience worth to your organization?

Again, a development partner who can help you evaluate these odds is invaluable.  Poker players don’t have the luxury of consulting with an expert when their opponent makes an all-in bet. You do – pushing the odds in your favor.

3. They evaluate their play based on decisions, not results.

Every poker player wants to win each hand he or she contests. But the best ones want to win it the “right way” —  knowing they bet with the odds in their favor.

If they call an opponent’s big bet and end up winning the hand on an unlikely final card, they’re not happy. Well, not completely happy.  If they make the decisions with the best odds every time, they expect to be a winner in the long run.

In development, making smart planning decisions and seeing what happens next is an accepted, winning strategy. Know that even some sound decisions may result in short-term failure — no amount of planning can ensure that you’ll anticipate or avoid every potential problem – and adjust if indeed you run into problems. Short-term results don’t matter anywhere near as much as long-term results, but good decisions count every time.

Can these three strategies carry your organization to a multi-million dollar windfall and international acclaim? There’s no guarantee, of course. But they can put you in a position to win – and that’s all a poker player can ask for when the chips are in the middle of the table.

Brad Powell

Brad Powell

Brad Powell is President and CEO of Axiaware, a custom software and user experience design firm that helps credit unions bridge the gap between a business goal and a software ... Web: Details