For the newest instalment in our series of interviews asking leading technology specialists about their achievements in their field, we’ve welcomed Pieter Vaniperen, Managing Partner at PWV Consultants.
Pieter is a veteran software architect and security expert who is an industry authority and influencer providing thought leadership and execution to develop widely adopted processes, methodologies, and technologies that are at the forefront of digital innovation and software development.
As a 20-year software engineering veteran, he has founded or co-founded several companies, acted as a trusted advisor and mentor to numerous early-stage startups, held the titles of software executive and software security executive, consultant and professor.
His expert consulting and advisory work span several industries in finance, media, medical tech, and defence contracting. He authored the highly influential precursor HAZL (jADE) programming language.
Tell us about the business you represent, how did the idea come about to found your enterprise? What is the vision?
You know, most people start a business and then seek customers. With PWV Consultants, it was different. We actually had customers prior to formation. You would think this is a good thing, customers are how businesses stay afloat, but we faced a different challenge: reverse engineering a business.
Developing systems and processes with customers already in place was difficult, but the end result is what you see today.
Our vision remains the same: to change how businesses view the software consultancy relationship and bring transparency to the development process.
What notable IT challenges have you overcome?
As a consultancy, it's challenging to coordinate the different IT systems partners work with and require access and information.
Figuring out the correct patterns to manage the flow of information through different systems, internal and external, took a while to shake out. We figured it out largely through trial and error. And as systems and system preferences evolve, we continue to adapt.
How has your business adapted during the Covid-19 pandemic?
We have a distributed network of employees across the country, so our adaptation during COVID-19 looked a bit different than most.
We didn’t have to transition our employees to remote work because most of them are already remote. But we have clients who needed extra assistance during the pandemic, which we were able to provide at the same level of service they are used to from us.
How is PWV Consultants different from other agencies?
PWV Consultants is a boutique group of industry leaders and influencers from the digital tech, security and design industries. We are trusted technical partners for many Fortune 500 companies, high-visibility startups, universities, defence agencies, and NGOs.
We got here by changing the way we view the software architecture consultancy relationship using Radical Production Transparency (RPT). Traditional software development is largely BlackBox, meaning that a business commissions a piece of software to be built, someone builds it and sends it back. But businesses often change, add or remove features as different needs become apparent.
While they communicate this to the developer, it’s not fully understood how that change impacts the entire project. Coding isn’t copied and pasted, it’s far more intricate and time-consuming than most business leaders realize. This is why we developed RPT.
RPT operates on the theory that everyone who is working on a project should have access to all of the information all of the time. We’ve done away with traditional BlackBox development and replaced it with a window into the entire process.
The result is that entire teams are on the same page, everyone knows what’s going on and where the project stands at all times.
What advice would you give aspiring CTOs and entrepreneurs?
Learn from your failures. Know from the beginning that you’re going to fail, it’s inevitable, and it’s part of being an entrepreneur. With every failure comes a lesson, something you can take away to use on your next venture.
That last bit is the key: Your next venture. Failing isn’t the end, it’s part of the journey. Get back up, keep moving forward and bring your lessons with you.
How do you think the role of CTO has evolved in the last five, ten, fifteen years?
The role of CTO has evolved from one that was highly technical, focused on infrastructure and large terminal-based systems, to one focused on a constellation of SaaS, Cloud, Customer UX, and software research and development.
CTOs are increasingly bridging the gap between business partners' understanding and engineering. Additionally, CTOs are having their arms stretched into deeper partnerships with CIO(Data roles) and CISO(Security roles).
This can all be summed up to say that 15 years ago technology was a part of a company, now every company is in some way a tech-centred company.
What new challenges are CTOs facing today?
In today’s pandemic and the post-pandemic world, CTOs face a variety of new challenges. They now likely have a hybrid or even completely remote workforce, which is very different from having an entire team in-house.
The way a team works when in the same physical location is not the same as how they work while apart. Remote work is not for everyone, which is why many businesses saw a drop in production during the initial weeks of the work-from-home era.
Even for those who are successful at working remotely, there was an adjustment period. Now, with much of the world beginning to reopen (although questions remain about the new variant), CTOs will have to lead their team through another adjustment period.
On top of the initial adjustment to remote along with the return to the office, CTOs have two major concerns: Budget constraints and growing security concerns. Budgets are often constrained for CTOs and security concerns are usually present as well.
However, the pandemic strained budgets even more than usual, and security concerns have catapulted to the front page of every news media outlet. So the struggles are greater than in years past, and because of the Delta variant, it’s hard to say when those struggles are going to let up.
What do you see as the hottest trends within your industry today?
The hottest trends in the industry today are the increased use of AI and ML and emerging serverless patterns. AI and ML are being integrated and adopted by more companies every day, although we still need human eyes on the results produced due to known bias in ML training data.
Going forward, we’re going to see more of a focus on more secure methods in development, a bigger focus on data engineering and cloud services. Infrastructure-as-code is already alongside containers as an expected knowledge set.