We all know or think we know who the one-percenters may be, but have you ever considered who the real one-percenters are? Let’s not think in terms of wealth here, let’s consider the bottleneck of human progress...
The eighteen million software developers on the planet who provide the other 99.4% of professionals with their applications. That’s the three billion of us who are not software developers. As you can see, they are not even one-percenters; they are zero point-sixers. That’s how small the aperture is between the world of professional creativity and the gatekeepers who get to create the applications and platforms. I’m Swedish, and in our language, we have a word for ‘just enough’ - lagom. Lagom is the principle behind IKEA, if you like, the Swedish concept of economical quality. But I very much doubt that 0.6% of the world’s population can fulfil the business dreams of the other 99.4%. This, to me, does not seem like just enough - it seems like way too little. And yet, the answer does not lie in creating more developers.
"It seems that technology must have its IKEA moment, and some have seen that in the low-code movement."
Ingvar Kamprad of IKEA did not solve the furniture dilemma by building bigger showrooms – he reinvented the equation by making the owner a partner in the production process. In doing so, he radically multiplied the marketplace for quality furnishings while maintaining a radical economy. It seems that technology must have its IKEA moment, and some have seen that in the low-code movement. But the problem with low-code per se is that it is still a technology movement, not one driven by the business community representing the 99.4%. If you think of the digital transformations that are disrupting enterprises and sectors of all kinds, they too are technology paradigms. If anything, the one-percenters have grown in control and influence as their numbers have diminished.
Surely the object is not to negotiate the encroachment of automation and robotization on our territory, not to relinquish control of our incumbent domains, but to let business drive technology in the first place.
This is why I like to think of Flowfactory, the start-up I co-founded as a business owner’s developer, and why we work directly with process owners on the complex commercial problems they face now. “The business value of IT” was a mythical creature invented by the technology community to communicate worth but has never been defined in detail or nailed down. Because how could 0.6% of the world intimately understand the dilemmas and opportunities facing the other 99.4%?
True lagom in the industry technology space - not the information technology one - would see business driving the tech, not the other way around. If business drove tech, we wouldn’t witness a 62% backlog in enterprise app development - because business owners would be creating the thing themselves. We wouldn’t see 37% experiencing a shortage in software developers - because such a deficit would not matter. Lagom is about getting the balance right - in this case, correcting the imbalance between 0.6% and 99.4%. Real lagom would mean mobile applications wouldn’t take so long to create - currently 80% take longer than three months, 40% take longer than six. Real flow between business and its technology base would mean lower-end app costs of between 140,000 and 170,000 dollars would be a thing of the past. As would the hidden substantial mark-up on that in the first two years maintenance and upgrading. There’s no doubt about it, perceived scarcity creates the perception of high value, and that in turn drives huge cost. Ironic, isn’t it, that coding was originally considered a low-paid career, like typing?
"Note I said dictate, not ‘brief’ the geeks who then create their own miraculous walled and secret gardens."
The foundational vision behind Flowfactory is that things don’t necessarily have to be this way. Low-code technology is part of the solution, but the real answer is to start with the business and let the process owners dictate the digital. Note I said dictate, not ‘brief’ the geeks who then create their own miraculous walled and secret gardens. Software developers are not cheap, and we will always need their unique skills, but waiting for a driver to drive your own car is a frustrating and expensive business. At some point in history, we invented the graphical user interface so an average Joe and an average Joanna could interact with the computer. At some later point, we invented the personal computer so they could create their own documents and files. Isn’t the logical next step to let business operate at the speed of change instead of waiting on the technology gatekeepers who serve it?
"Technology is just a metaphor. A technê is simply a method."
The world is full of industrial and manufacturing enterprises desperate to transform digitally and engaging on an increasing basis with the pure-bred geeks. This is a logical move, but as advertising genius Rory Sutherland recently put it, the opposite of a good idea can also be a good idea. If you are a business owner reading this right now, let me remind you that technology is just a metaphor, a word that basically means ‘way’. A technê is simply a method. No one will understand your business as well as you do. No one will ‘get’ your way like you do. That is not to say you don’t need technology partners (you do), but you must retain the primacy of the process and teach the technology to behave, not vice versa. Technology has transformed the planet, let’s face it, but it also exemplifies its fair share of hocus-pocus. The technology narrative is that business must always catch up. In Geekspeak, it is always the technology that disrupts.
But we founded Flowfactory because the opposite is also true. Even more so.