I’ve had the chance to work in a number of organizations in my career. Every one of these places needed to run a network and software applications to support the business. Most of them also built a portion of the software they used, with some applications being purchased. No matter how much software they built, whether it was a lot or a little, there was always a need to manage a software lifecycle. Whether you build or buy software, you will have new applications, patches for existing systems, and the retirement of others over time.
While every organization recognized the value of software, some saw this as an expense, like salaries or buildings. The funds needed for computing the “cost of doing business.” In organizations that felt this way, there was always a focus on controlling or reducing costs, doing just what needed to be done, and being efficient with how computing was used. These organizations seemed to be stodgy and traditional, with management focused more on the analog world than the digital one. Some were quite successful, which I often think is a combination of good management, good staff, and luck.
These days, I think that view the software is an expense is less and less successful in many industries. Over time, this view will see a deterioration in the success of those businesses compare to competitors that treat software differently. It might be a slow decline over decades or a more rapid one in a few years. I truly believe in software eating the world, and every company needs to be a technology company. They don’t all need to build software, but they do need to manage it, and more importantly, take advantage of software to better run their businesses.
We see this in all kinds of industries. Perhaps it’s highly visible in the automotive industry these days, but in plenty of others, from finance to insurance to retail to manufacturing, the use of software as a strategic asset improves the competitiveness of business. Even in government, organizations are finding that making better use of software allows them to offer more services at a lower cost.
I wonder how many of you see your employers treating software as a strategic part of their business model. Do they aim to increase profits or become more efficient or even innovate in their industry with the power of modern computing? Or is it just a tool that they depend on, and consider the cost of doing business? If your group isn’t seen as strategic, likely they don’t value your work as highly, don’t provide training, and don’t create opportunity or innovation that ensures your work is interesting. If those are things that matter to you, perhaps it is time to look around for other employment.