It’s all change out there. Software partnering provides some answers

Business model change – scary

At this stage of the game, most organisations have realised that their business models are under a fluid competitive threat from digital technologies and Internet services. To turn this threat into an opportunity requires a focus on how technology can evolve or alter the business. This may range from back-office automation through to digitising market interaction, or converting available data into useful information to grow organisational know-how and raise competitive barriers to entry.

Software stack change – a paradox of choice

The fluidity in business model innovation enabled by digital technologies is matched by an equal if not greater flux within those technologies. Aside from the visibly obvious changes in hardware, the variety of new software platforms, coding languages, frameworks and tools is never ending, with innovations that quickly make elements of the big vendor stacks look obsolete. Logical and physical application architectures look very different now than they did a few years ago.

It’s hard to keep up, but the changes are so significant that if you do not adapt, you run the risk of being overtaken, slowly in the case of established applications and quickly in the case of newer applications.

Open-source software is a key driver in this increased pace of software stack evolution, adding to the new complexity in selection and adoption strategies.

Development process change – it’s a culture thing

Software organisations are under pressure to evolve at a significantly increased cadence in order to stay competitive. Among multiple factors, this pressure is being forced by the explosion in new delivery technologies, cloud deployment, the agile and lean movements and a very competitive recruitment and retention market for engineers, globally. This presents a great leadership and management opportunity, because changing organisational cultures and processes within software can be really tough, but hugely rewarding.

So what?

So what does all of this change add up to, apart from chaos? In our view, at a general level and with exception, big organisations are struggling to adapt to the speed of change in software for obvious reasons, ranging from tech stack loyalty to normal political ‘silo-ism’, and small to medium sized companies cannot acquire the new depth of expertise across the board – because the board is now much wider.

Outsourcing or Partnering?

Collaboration between third parties is one solution. In contrast to traditional ‘outsourcing’ rationale, companies are now ‘partnering’ to create the required collaboration. The view is that none of us can, or need to, be experts in the requisite depth and breadth across today’s software landscape. However, instead of just offloading a well-defined problem to an outsourcer and managing that vendor with traditional KPIs, companies are integrating third party capabilities into a partnership model, so that they get more than a piece of code back in return for their financial consideration.

This evolution has its roots in the move from linear waterfall to flexible agile models, because building allowances for requirement change into the process requires a more open collaboration between client and provider, and practicing this level of transparency helps to identify new ways to collaborate together.

We have been experiencing this trend in our own software development engagements at Sonalake. Solution requirements and specifications are increasingly high level and fluid, as our clients look to us for a highly proactive and iterative engagement, identifying how best to apply our capabilities to the gaps and opportunities that we identify together.  The ethos is one of collaboration, combining knowledge and skill bases to manage the challenges of tech stack evolution and tech process evolution. We are really enjoying it, it’s a great way to work together.