I spend a lot of time reading tech news, researching emergent architectures and generally geeking out. Marc Andreesson wrote a great blog post a few years ago that is only getting more and more relevant. Simple statement:
Software is eating the world
Software is changing every industry and software companies are taking control. Not that long ago, software was something that only geeks really appreciated. Most people in “the business” saw the value, but not the tidal wave impact it would have. But now? Everyone understands that software is fundamental to business and that it can create disruptive change.
I mean hey? These computers can do a lot of work on our behalf. That’s pure goodness. Combined with a strong understanding of how businesses work, software can re-imagine industries. Incredibly awesome and incredibly scary all at the same time.
However, software development still sucks… big time. Why? That laptop, that iPhone, that tablet is a slave to only one master, and that master is the developer. For the rest of us, we’re second-class citizens in this technological revolution. We use technology, but we don’t create or innovate it. We’re observers, not drivers.
If you look at research coming out of Gartner, the stats are pretty depressing when it comes to software creation and delivery. Next year, the gap between what IT/developers can build and what the business is demanding (globally) will be worth a trillion dollars! That’s a trillion dollars of stuff the business really needs. That’s a trillion dollars that could have become bazillions of dollars in competitive advantage, market leadership and industry disruption! That’s the “app gap” and it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to work out how much faster you business could be growing if you could get a handle on it:
So we can conclude that IT and developers are killing innovation and killing your business.
They should be ashamed of themselves… or maybe it’s a little more complicated. The reality is that so much of IT, and the technology they rely on, has been focused maniacally on one thing:
Make the developer more productive
Hmmm… doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, if you look at the chart, it’s failing fast, the problem is accelerating exponentially.
Maybe, just maybe, we should stop being so reliant on IT and developers when we think about CREATING software. Maybe, the business should do it themselves and muck in with the rest of IT? Hey, they know way more about how your business works and can innovate both technology AND business at the same time. Or…
Maybe IT is just plain lazy
They say “no” all the time right? Clearly they’re work shy. Perhaps if you just give them a kick of the back-side you can make the “app gap” go away. The reality, however, is that your IT team are working their socks off trying to keep your existing business systems running:
If you ask Gartner, they’ll tell you. 80% of IT time is spent keeping the lights on with your existing systems. They’re simply not funded to go off developing new stuff. So perhaps we should turn the table. It’s not IT’s fault, the business just refuses to provide the spondulics to allow them to innovate.
So we can conclude that the business is killing innovation and itself.
You should be ashamed of yourselves. And now we appear to hit a roadblock. A stalemate that explains the tension between the CEO and the CIO. But no, it gets worse… there’s “one more thing…”
Devices. As if it wasn’t hard enough to build software, Mr. Jobs went and shook up everything. Web 2.0? Not any more. We’re back to thick clients, much smarter distribution, and the server is the Cloud.
What happened to the good old days. You create a website, everyone can browse to it. Job done. Biggest technical issue was:
Is the screen 1024 by 768 or bigger?
But that’s not the issue any more – screen sizes are all over the place and many argue that “smaller is better”. In addition, the apps need to work online and offline. They need to work on iOS and Android but also Windows, Mac, and Chrome. I mean yikes! But more than that, the apps are getting smaller and smaller so even the management and distribution has changed. So many apps… so many devices… so much code!! Makes you kind of miss WIntel?
Everything IT learned about architecting for the web just went away. It’s now REST APIs, client/server-side frameworks, Objective-C, Java, etc all wonderfully mixed together. It’s a jungle of competing architectures and frameworks. Even if you funded IT, chances are they simply aren’t qualified to architect for the next generation of apps, let alone develop and code them in any number of programming languages.
We’re experiencing the biggest shake-up in IT since IT existed
So where to we go from here? Sounds like we should all pack up and go home and let the software industry eat our lunch. But no, there is a light at the end of this tunnel.
Change the record
We need to re-think IT and how it’s delivered. We need to re-assess all of our assumptions:
- How software is built
- Who manages software and who delivers it
- How software is architected and distributed
For me, I think there are two critical things to consider:
- It’s time the business was able to create software themselves. IT and developers simply cannot stand in the way and be a “broker” or “middleman” any longer. It’s crazy and it needs to stop.
- Not every piece of software in your company needs to be built to mission critical standards. Some business initiatives will fail and the software that supports them will be thrown away. Architect for your pace of change.
I can also point you to some insights from Gartner and Forrester:
- Gartner: Have a look at their research on “Pace Layers“. But also make sure you check out “Bi-Modal IT”.
- Forrester: Have a look at their research on “Low Code Platforms“.
You might also want to look at their work on “Citizen Developer” or “Business Developer”.
The Good News
The reality is, if you manage your IT projects properly, you’ve actually got all the people you need in your company to keep up. So perhaps spend a little less time focusing on “impossible budgets”, but instead change your strategy.
Software is eating the world. Don’t let it eat your business.
If this resonates, make sure you check out ManyWho also – we’d love to talk to you.