Internet

Outsourcing the job of CTO

Steven Ericsson Zenith launches The Kiss Principle, a business that provides outsourcing for the duties normally handled by a CTO.

Steven Ericsson Zenith's business motto is Kiss: keep it simple, stupid.

Toward that end, Zenith, previously chief technology officer and chief architect for NetChannel, has launched The Kiss Principle, a business that provides outsourcing for the duties normally handled by a CTO, such as strategic planning for technology. It also will focus on Internet telephony, Internet TV, and networking computing architectures.

Zenith, who lead NetChannel's technology team that developed the first Web-enhanced television service to hit the market for network computers, left the company prior to its acquisition by America Online in May. He has also led work on Oracle's network computing efforts via its affiliate NCI.

" [Kiss] is an idea whose time has come, in which a CTO is an independent body from a company," Zenith said. "Companies have historically wanted someone like me to focus on just their products...but after awhile, a CTO becomes an expensive handicap."

After companies set their technology strategies in place, CTOs may be found twiddling their thumbs as those plans are executed upon by a company's technology team, he added.

"Start-ups may need me for six to twelve months on a project, then they enter a different phase," Zenith said.

Kiss serves as an independent CTO office that provides advice for business development and also performs daily hands-on work, Zenith said. He added: "We are much more closely involved with our customers than consultants would be."

For now, Zenith said he doesn't have much direct competition. His main obstacle is persuading companies to outsource such an important responsibility.

The company's services include CTO+, A-Team engineering, SWAT team problem solving, as well as providing periodic industry reports and identifying where strategic patents may be possible. The CTO+ service provides a CTO for new projects and start-ups, while the A-Team engineering provides short-term oversight on projects. The SWAT team is a 24-hour service that provides engineers to troubleshoot problems.

KISS, funded by its own operations, now has a project with NEC.

"They are a large company with a particular need for Internet telephony," said Zenith, who added that his company is working with NEC's engineering team in Japan. "In the NEC deal, we built an [initial cut] for the direction of where we might send them in."