Those of us who make our living in the IT industry and who believe in the value of IT received quite a shock in May 2003 when Harvard Business Review published an article by Nicholas Carr entitled “IT Doesn’t Matter.”1 The article made the persuasive case that the value of IT had run its course, become a commodity input for companies, and its strategic value no longer mattered. As if to cement this view, the article was voted the best of the year!
Some years later, however, the prevailing sentiment seems to have dramatically shifted. Marc Andreessen, the founder of Netscape and now a famed Silicon Valley venture capitalist, made the pronouncement in his 2011 article in The Wall Street Journal that “software would eat the world,” implying that software was poised to take over large swathes of the economy.2 And in 2013, analyst Stephen O’Grady took this idea further when he proclaimed that developers have now become the most important constituency in business, or put in his words, “the new kingmakers.”3
This change in sentiment raises a number of questions. Why was it that the fortunes of developers were so dramatically altered? What does this mean for their future — will developers continue to be “kingmakers?” And, perhaps most importantly, if developers are the new kingmakers, then how does a developer become a king among kingmakers?
The Past, the Present, and the Future
So what changed since 2003? The answer, in a nutshell, is the emergence of cloud and mobile computing. In 2006, Amazon introduced Amazon Web Services (AWS), an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering that provided developers with compute resources over the internet using a pay-per-use model. A year later, Apple introduced the first iPhone, along with a mobile platform that enabled developers to create imaginative apps on a scale that no one could have foreseen. These new technologies made companies realize that the possibilities for innovation are endless — but only if they have capable developers in place.
This is a subtle point, but one that holds the key to understanding whether developers will continue to be crucial to the market. Today, we continue to see an explosion in cloud and mobile computing; on top of that, we are also seeing the arrival of new technologies such as social media, big data, sensor networks, and wearable computing — a revolution that is creating a new information era filled with incredible possibilities. For example, there are now solutions available that allow you to find available parking spots in real time, discover and react to consumer needs based on information from social media, and even personalize cancer treatments to individuals based on their genomes. We are also seeing new possibilities in marketing, such as sending tailored, real-time promotions to consumers’ mobile phones as they walk by a store.
These examples are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more possibilities that await us, but it will take developers to invent and unlock them, a fact that means developers will not only remain kingmakers, but will have ever greater importance. For developers, this is fantastic news since the opportunities are abundant. But what about those developers who want to achieve more — those who want to become kings among kingmakers?
Ascend to the Crown
For developers to be successful, it is imperative to not only unlock innovative possibilities from today’s new information era, but to also have these innovations be widely adopted. Achieving this goal requires the right technology platform, speed and flexibility, and access to a large market.
The Right Technology Platform
To create compelling applications for today’s new information era, companies need a technology platform that will enable them to build applications with capabilities such as elastic scaling, mobile, collaboration, big data analytics, and personalization, among others (see Figure 1). Acquiring the kind of infrastructure needed to create this class of applications is a tall order and is potentially too expensive for most developers, even if they are part of large corporations.
Fortunately, platform-as-a-service (PaaS) cloud technology provides an affordable subscription-based approach to providing the services — including mobile development, collaboration development, and big data analytics — that are needed to provision and run applications. However, to fully take advantage of the new information era, it will also be necessary for developers to create applications that can rapidly analyze large amounts of data and deliver insights in real time. Consequently, the right technology platform will be a next-generation PaaS, such as SAP HANA Cloud Platform, which is built on in-memory-based technology that provides groundbreaking analytic speeds.
Speed and Flexibility
One of the most difficult challenges when creating new applications is ensuring that they will resonate with consumers. Consequently, developers who win in the new information era will be those who can rapidly build and easily iterate applications so they can converge on market requirements. To support this, SAP HANA Cloud Platform will enable developers to write once and deploy on many form factors (instead of having to code for each one), easily collaborate with other developers to share code and reuse content, and collaborate among others in the organization to better understand market requirements.
Access to a Large Marketplace
Imagine the different fortunes of two shopkeepers, each selling exactly the same products. One of them has a shop on a busy street and the other has a shop in a location with no traffic. Without a doubt, the shopkeeper on the busy street will be more successful. The same idea applies for developers — to succeed and have your applications broadly adopted, it pays to use a technology platform, like SAP HANA Cloud Platform, that provides ready access to the intended customer base so you can monetize your work.
Long Live the King!
Developers are now entering a new information era in which they hold the key to unlocking amazing new possibilities. But to truly succeed in this era, developers require the right platform, the ability to be quick and flexible, and access to the right customers. SAP HANA Cloud Platform provides all of these elements; it is the platform that developers require to become kings among kingmakers.
Rahul Asthana (email@example.com) is a member of the SAP HANA Cloud Platform solution marketing team. Rahul has a Ph.D. in management from the Anderson Graduate School of Management at UCLA, and a BSEE from Princeton University.
1 Harvard Business Review, “IT Doesn’t Matter” by Nicholas Carr (May 2003). [back]
2 The Wall Street Journal, “Why Software Is Eating the World” by Marc Andreessen (August 2011). [back]
3 The New Kingmakers: How Developers Conquered the World by Stephen O’Grady (Sebastopol, CA; O’Reilly Media, 2013). [back]