I like to summarize some of the changes happening in software as shifting from software that enhances the value of a solution to software that becomes the primary way to get value from a solution.
An example might be banking. In the past, the value of a bank account might be the ability to write checks. Software enhanced that… by being able to, for example, see a digital copy of the check online after it was cashed. The primary value is still the “process”: checking. But the checking-process is better when it’s digitally enhanced.
In the future, however, processes like checking will be commodities (as they really are today, but that’s another line of thinking for the moment). Primary value will be delivered to consumers by software. To extend my checking example… if the check writing process is a commodity, perhaps the primary value is budgeting (money management) or using AI/big-data to be able to study your habits and “make the most” of your money given your current lifestyle (and perhaps even those around you).
We don’t necessarily know what problems we need to solve for at the moment, but we have to start asking ourselves different questions if we want to get ready.
Take for example, this “Alexa city”.
To think about voice enabling a smart city, you would want to have your digital assets generally available so that they can be voice-enabled. Then, based on insight into customer use… you might adapt a strategy using agile principles, so that you don’t have an 18 month roadmap, but would deliver services in a much more frequent iteration.
This is different, than perhaps approaching voice by saying “let’s voice enable our recycling system”. Because then you’d have to “voice enable the school schedule system” and the “trash pickup system” and the “transportation system”. In this latter way of thinking, you’re still thinking in silos, with each silo being voice-enabled separately.
The new way of doing things requires a platform. The platform abstracts away silo-specifics, and provides a way to cross-polinate capabilities in order to create a richer, more seamless experience for the customer than in the past (when taking a silo-ed approach).
Platforms are important, but can be hard to justify. They don’t provide value directly that’s easily measured against an ROI… but as the commercial used to say “we don’t make your paint, we make your paint better” (Dupont, the chemical company). You can make your application without a platform, but when you use a platform you are able to deliver much better solutions. Better as in faster time to market, in a more agile way (so that you can be responsive to customers), and with a richer customer experience.
The mobile economy but a computer in everyone’s pockets. That’s like a PC on everyone’s desk. That PC is used to access a world of back-end information… The internet of things is going to enrich the back-end by adding billions of data collecting end-points that allow us to interact with the world around us… but the value created by the winners in the IoT space is going to be passed through a platform, not an application silo.