0

I developed a system (Web application) prior to my employment at this software company that I've been working at for over a year. I demoed the system to some developers that I now work with in my initial interview and they had said it was a good idea.

The system fits well with the companies existing systems and I believe it would make the company a lot of money. I have talked to my superior about the system and he said he would get back to me about it but never did. My question is now that I have brought it to the attention of my direct superior and he hasn't gotten back to me should I go directly to the CEO by way of Email/phone call? The CEO has stated before that we should feel free to call him if we ever want to run anything by him and he works in the same building as me. I feel like the idea would have to come to him anyway so I feel like I should just go over my superior and call him. What would the risks of me making this move be?

My goal is to have the company either buy the system from me or partner with me in selling to to existing clients

  • What is your objective? Are you hoping to sell this solution to the firm and be paid for it? Are you simply seeking recognition for the work? Are you hoping to avoid rebuilding it at your current employer? – Glen Pierce Oct 3 '18 at 13:51
  • 4
    Go back to your boss. Don't jump chain of command on this. – paparazzo Oct 3 '18 at 14:00
  • @paparazzo that looks like the opening line to an answer I look forward to reading – rath Oct 3 '18 at 15:13
  • 1
    Did you fully build out this web app before taking your current position? Have you updated it in any way since taking this position? Have you used any knowledge gained from your current position to improve or enhance the web app? – Maigen Thomas Oct 3 '18 at 17:42
4

Tell your boss you're taking this to the CEO, but welcome the opportunity for him to stop or guide you. There are a few reasons this idea may not have moved forward despite the initial positive feedback you got:

  1. It's not actually worth doing. The people you've talked to may have felt good about the idea when talking to you. Perhaps it has some real potential, but it doesn't help the company as much as other things they're working on. Perhaps it's something they tried before and they don't think it'll work. Perhaps it's wrong in a way that's obvious to them but not to you. In any of these cases, they were probably still impressed by your initiative and creativity, and perhaps they were even deliberate about choosing a delayed response instead of an immediate one, because telling someone that an idea they care about won't work can be super demoralizing. If you can get some additional information from them before taking this to the CEO, you can potentially improve the way you present it, or maybe spare yourself the embarrassment of presenting something that won't look good.
  2. They don't want to own it. Maybe it's a great idea for the company, but not something they feel ready to execute. It's often hard, in an established company, to make time for risky new ideas even though those can be critically important. There are also more banal issues, like the challenge of how to compensate you fairly for an idea that you had before you started but likely needs substantial refinement to launch. Often CEOs want more risk-taking and innovation, but middle managers have good reasons to be cautious because failing at an attempted new project can reflect poorly on them, and the nature of new projects is that there's a big risk of failure. In this case, your manager might be happy for you to take it to the CEO, but they also might worry about how it reflects on them - perhaps there's a way for them to make a warm intro so that this idea can reflect positively on both you and your manager.
  3. It's good but conflicts with their other goals. This is the worst-case scenario, and covers situations like your manager feeling that he cannot let you take credit for the idea, or worrying that his own failure to suggest the idea would signal incompetence. In these scenarios, which are probably rarer than you think, it may be a good idea for you to actively circumvent your manager, but it will definitely be risky.
  4. It's just not urgent. They're busy and hope to get to this someday, but it's not an "on fire" problem like the 20 other things vying for their attention.

In most of these cases, it's beneficial to you to get more information from your immediate manager before you go to the CEO. But for that to work, you need to be open to feedback, including the possibility that your idea is seriously flawed. This can be a great opportunity for you to learn -- about the idea, the company, and how to best deal with your managers and colleagues.

  • I've heard of 3 getting really messy when an idea has been sitting on someone's to do list gathering dust and then someone comes and pitches something very similar at a much higher cost than in house development of the idea would be. – Myles Oct 3 '18 at 14:59
  • Scenario 3 can certainly get messy. Companies don't often buy tech or ideas from existing employees; hopefully you were clear about what parts of this idea are your intellectual property in your offer letter. Realistically, if it's a good idea you can turn this into a growth opportunity and get to pursue something you care about at work, probably with some new responsibilities. If you're hoping for something more like an acquisition than a bonus? It's probably too late for that. – Shimon Rura Oct 3 '18 at 15:09

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.