Conceptually, should anyone in your company “with an itch” be able to write software to to scratch it?
All “how” questions aside… should an employee be able to create solutions that enable them to do their jobs better using a company’s digital assets?
Before you say no, let me remind you that anyone with any motivation at all has exported company data into excel to create charts and/or slides to gain a better understand of their business, make better decisions, and collaborate. Doing so is a given, and is part of the cultural conversation around how technology serves a “job to be done”.
Should an employee, self-motivated & with initiative to learn new things, be able to improve their understanding & the execution of their business?
With most businesses being digital, and in fact, most policy & innovation execution being about software, the question leads us to ask:
Should an employee be able to write software to help them do their own jobs better, the same way they create formulas in Excel or relationships in Powerpoint?
How Would They?
I don’t (yet) care about the complexity.
I don’t (yet) care about the skills or interest required by employees.
I don’t even care (ever) about where people will find the time. Driven & engaged employees will always make the time to do things better.
I’ll even give you the timing. Maybe I’m 5 years ahead of everyone else here?1 If you can’t agree that people need to do this today, do you think they would in a few years’ time?
Well? Yes or no? Do companies need to give employees the potential to write software that solves their own problems, or not?
Just Because I’m Crazy, Doesn’t Mean I’m Wrong
Before you write me off as completely crazy, look around. What has the Internet become? It’s a big integration bus (platform). Anyone with an idea can get onto one of the many “teach yourself to code” websites and see if their idea works.
That doesn’t mean they’re going to write “good” code. They just want to solve a problem and coding it out is the method. Any contractor would look at the work I’ve done around my apartment and put on their hardhat. I don’t care. My shelves are hung, my walls painted, and my wife happy.
Long story short… at the first company I worked for I tricked out Excel to help me write proposals faster than anyone else. By faster, I mean that I could generate the proposal as well as all the internal information for approvals, financial analysis, and, should we have won, implementation. The result? I literally had an executive tell me that I was too good. I set the bar too high for my management who then had unrealistic expectations. In turn, those expectations made hiring/retaining others problematic.
Admittedly, I’m technical-ish. Coding these days, with the right API’s in place, isn’t much more difficult than writing Excel macros back then. And, access to training/tutorials and help (via ‘the community’) is dramatically greater than it was ~25 years ago. When I was writing these macros, it was still 5 years BN.
So, I ask again. If not today, think about next year. Or a few years from now.
Should employees scratch their own itch with code?
Now, what are we going to do about it? Because there’s going to be a lot of shitty code out there that can really f$%k things up.
If you enjoyed this post, you should also read “A Business Case for Building a Software Innovation Platform” — they’re part of the same series of posts in which I develop the business case, strategy, and implementation for my innovation platform.
- Doubtful, because that’s not my thing. I’m creative, not innovative. [↩]