Software is becoming a critical element in virtually all products, from vehicles to household items. There are fridges with touch screens and built-in voice assistants. Doorbells, locks, and thermostats can all be controlled via an app. Even my coffee pot connects to the internet!
Thirty-five years ago, I would’ve asked how much horsepower a car had, whether it had eight or six cylinders, and if it had mag tires. Now the first thing my sons ask is whether they can connect their iPhones and easily do talk-to-text while they’re driving—not to mention Wi-fi hotspots, and high-resolution music.
Everything is connected, which in turn requires more software content. While hardware is still a necessity in making any product—sheet metal, tires, seats, etc.—software has become the differentiator. It’s the critical element that provides the experiential piece consumers value. Unfortunately, as the balance between hardware and software starts to invert, most industrial companies don’t have the kind of software capabilities required to keep pace.
A large part of what holds these companies back is the belief that their IT team can fill in as software developers. They view software as being akin to computers, which in turn falls under the umbrella of their IT team.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
IT techs and software developers play two completely different roles, with very different skill sets.
An IT team manages databases and purchases and administrates software. Tasking them with software development is no different than assuming a carpenter knows how to run wiring because he works on houses. Sure, they can be cross trained, but to do the job well and at an efficient rate, you really need professionals specialized in software development.
Software developers understand how the software will work in relation to consumer expectations. This information is the basis of everything. It allows them to create the logical software architecture needed to build the foundation for a product that can be expanded upon as the company grows its platform. Like building a home, the more detailed and organized the plans, the more efficient the build out.
The initial launch of any new software product is merely the beginning. As a company grows, it layers new customer experiences onto its existing software platform. This can range from a rollout of new emojis to an update that decreases start-up times.
Without a team of software developers to build and maintain an efficient platform foundation, a seemingly simple task like rolling out new emojis or launching Amazon delivery service to car trunks becomes much more labor intensive or even impossible—especially if the platform was originally built piecemeal. If the foundation isn’t solid, every newly added piece will run the risk of breaking and causing time-intensive repairs. That’s why it’s so important to have skilled developers who can create a logical software architecture that supports efficiency, especially at scale. Speed is a major advantage when rolling out enhancements and additional features.
As consumers’ appetite for software continues to grow, companies must prioritize this aspect of their business. They must ensure that their developers have the skills, tools, and incentives to drive the needed differentiation and enhance customer experiences.