Five years ago, Marc Andreessen famously stated that “software is eating the world,” and it has and is in ways that he probably couldn’t have imagined even five years ago.
Applications are no longer a nice-to-have. They play a central role in how and why businesses operate, and companies are producing them in unprecedented numbers. In fact, a typical $500 million-plus enterprise today has developed more than 3,079 applications (CIO Magazine), and has an average of roughly 600 mission-critical applications (Quocirca). Financial services organizations have even more mission-critical applications – with an average of 800 (Quocirca).
What is all this software doing? It is the primary way that companies run their businesses today – from interacting with customers, prospects and partners to making business decisions. Software is truly powering our world; it enables the functionality of our banks, power plants, communication and combat equipment. Hospitals, medical devices and critical infrastructure, such as 911 systems and the electric grid, all depend on software to operate effectively and efficiently.
How did we go from only software companies making software to “every company is a software company”? It started with companies creating software to make their own internal processes more efficient. Then a few companies started using it to interact with customers – and the genie was out of the bottle. The bar had been raised, and customers expected to be able to interact with companies online. To survive, enterprises today have to create not only products and services their customers want, but also software that allows customers to interact with the company and its products and services how they want, when they want.
But it’s not enough to become a software company, you also need to become a fast-moving software company. Customers are demanding that companies not only meet their expectations, but keep up with them as well. As end users expect ever-greater functionality and mobile accessibility, companies are forced to keep pace with the speed of technology advancement. And if they don’t, their customers will look elsewhere. Ultimately, companies are competing with one another to both create software, and to get it to market quickly.
In 2014, a Forbes Magazine article stated that “becoming Agile will steadily become a requirement just to stay in business. In effect, for most companies, failure to acquire digital agility will be an existential threat and so, establishing digital agility has become in effect a strategic necessity.” And that was written two years ago; it’s an even greater necessity today.
And the role of applications in businesses today is not just about making customers happy. Most need software to make the business decisions that allows them to function. A recent SANS report concluded that, “Most successful businesses are data driven. For example, a grocery chain will stock each store with the mix of products most likely to sell. A big-box hardware store will carefully analyze demographic data before expanding to a new location … Without accurate data and applications to draw reliable conclusions, these businesses would fail. Applications allow them to function.”
In the end, it’s not about whether software will transform your business, but how it will. A recent article in Entrepreneur Magazine sums it up: “Software has evolved from being no part of your business to becoming a way to run your business … and now, increasingly, will be your business.”