Software development keeps moving the mark – a lesson about rapidly changing software standards

This post takes us in a little different direction to help some of our clients understand the frustration we all feel with constantly changing technologies.

Recently, I was given a copy of the book “The Long Tail.”  One of its main premises is that technology, namely the Internet, has transformed the mass market in to millions of niche markets. The author argues that prior to the age of the Web, economics were driven by “hit” products and that this dynamic was largely a result of scarcity or lack of choice. In the Internet age, however, this model has been fragmented into myriad choices and alternatives – visually creating a graph where the demand for items in the tail adds up to be equal to or greater than the demand for the hits, or items at the head of the graph – hence the name “long tail.”

There certainly seems to be a long tail effect when it comes to software. On the Web, software products are developed by a company staffed with a few friends have equal “shelf placement” with similar products developed by large software companies like Microsoft. This creates another dynamic, one in which the larger software companies feel drive to innovate more and release more frequently. We have certainly seen this in the last 5 years. More than once, we have seen companies like Microsoft abandon one line of software and incorporating it’s abilities into a completely new enterprise. We have just seen this with Microsoft MapPoint and it now replaced with Bing Maps. While this second dynamic may be a good thing, it can also be a source of frustration for those of us supporting and learning the new technologies, finding ways adapt them to our client’s needs only to find them replaced with a newer focus or technology.

While the long tail never reaches zero, the head is constantly moving. If you livelihood comes from a demand for technical skills, and that demand is based on a long tail curve where the head is moving at an increasing rate, you can feel like you’re living on a treadmill and someone keeps simultaneously increasing the speed and the incline. Over the last two years, this trend has slowed but we are on the brink of picking up the pace again. So remember, as much as things change and newer technologies rapidly replace older technologies, not all the changes will last. Keep in mind the training and the level of effort you and your staff will require each and every time a new technology is introduced. It may be wise to wait and determine if this software currently in development will be here next year.

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About SCB Enterprises
System Solutions and Integration

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