Escaping the Era of Manufacturing

Giff Constable technology

But I’m just a soul whose intentions are good:
Oh Lord! Please don’t let me be misunderstood …

— The Animals

Software is eating the world, but most people really don’t understand it.

For one thing, it is relatively inexpensive to create if you are the one who can actually create it (although the opportunity cost is, of course, the kicker). But it is extremely expensive to create if you cannot. Non-makers latch onto the former, and are always shocked with the latter.

A tremendous amount of people don’t seem to realize that software is a continuous thing, at *all* stages of its lifecycle. Even a feature-fixed software product needs maintenance to deal with integration, OS, and hardware changes. Have you ever heard of a successful startup that launched its first product, and then didn’t need its design and engineering team anymore (let alone didn’t need to hire *more*)? And yet it is astounding how many people try to jump into software with the expectation that they just need to get their mobile app / website / etc launched and afterwards they’ll neither need to hire a team (the smartest option) nor keep the consultants around.

And elsewhere, it is astounding to see how many places still have not embraced agile. Or if they have, the approach is really “agilefall” where the engineers work in so-called agile cycles, but they are still working with requirements handed to designers who hand mocks to engineers. And it is all under fixed deadlines that don’t seem to change even when so-called stakeholders change their minds.

It is amazing to me that even today, after humans have now been creating software for decades, that engineers and designers are still expected to predict the future with work estimates, when there is a planet-sized body of evidence that proves they cannot.

It is bizarre to see how enterprise budgeting processes require employees to promise a fantasy. Then the rules give them little freedom to make sensible decisions that either save money or chase found opportunity. All because planning is worshipped over reality.

Pair programming is another deeply misunderstood and distrusted thing. I’m not religious about pairing, but I suspect most people think it is an excuse to have two people do one person’s job. ¬†Few understand the impact in terms of sustained focus and overall speed, which is rooted in faster problem solving and higher quality-as-you-go.

So much of the world is still stuck in a 19th and 20th century manufacturing mindset, treating software like widgets.

But software is eating the world. There is no company of any scale, or that aspires to be of any scale, that is not a software company today. It can’t be hidden in the corner. It shouldn’t be chucked around the world to low-cost labor. It doesn’t work like a Ford assembly line. It is too important for people to misunderstand it as badly as it is today.

But I shouldn’t be all doom. There is a growing body of people who do get software, and who continue to advance the art of creating it for meaningful purpose. And likely if you are here, you are one of them. I’m guilty of both preaching to the choir and repeating myself, but bear with me. Sometimes I can’t help but shake my head out loud.