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Communications of the ACM

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The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way


The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way, illustrative photo

Credit: Sergey Mironov

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As of July 2014, Facebook, founded in 2004, is in the top 20 of the most valuable companies in the S&P 500, putting the 10-year-old software company in the same league as IBM, Oracle, and Coca-Cola.3 Of the top five fastest-growing companies with regard to market capitalization in 2014 (Table 1), three are software companies: Apple, Google, and Microsoft (in fact, one could argue that Intel is also driven by software, making it four out of five).

Hot and upcoming companies such as Uber, Tesla, and Airbnb, which are disrupting the traditional taxi, car, and hotel markets, respectively, are also all fundamentally software companies.


Comments


Darryl Champagne

Wow, interesting article.
While I agree with the majority of what is written, I feel the need to point out two issues.
First, although relatively minor, in your section about context, not control, you conclude with "We do not care about developers' opinions on the long-term strategy of the enterprise." This seems extreme, and to at least slightly be in conflict with the immediately prior "keep developers happy and productive within these well-defined bounds." To extend your sports metaphor, do you really think you will get the best performance out of a team that feels it is headed in the wrong direction, and is guaranteed to lose? While you do not want each developer going off in their own direction, your developers should either have some belief in upcoming success, or belief in the capabilities of management. Doing otherwise is treating every developer as a short-term contractor with no real stake in the company.
Second, and more significant is the extreme ageism shown "Just like competitive athletes, they simply burn out by the time they reach their mid-30s.", and "their limited shelf life". This, in the same ACM issue as articles about "Pathways to Computing Careers", "The Whole Professional", and especially "Innovation and Inclusion". Certainly, that applies if the definition of "developer" is (illegally) restricted to "brogrammers", single males willing to spend their time only at work, and in competition with others of the same like - but isn't that a little extreme to advocate for all enterprises to switch to? E.g. "In the next decade every business will be digitized and effectively become a software company."
While there are many people who do tend to get set in their ways, and not make good software developers later in life, there are also those that can steadily innovate, and learn from mistakes rather than repeat them. Do we really need to aim for a world like Logan's Run, or promulgate the false Free Speech Movement ideology "Dont trust anyone over 30"? The Brain does not wear out from use, and if maximizing hours spent working is not the goal, such extreme burnout does not have to happen (at least beyond what a 6 or 8 week sabbatical, or assignment change could resolve).
Perhaps some people will accept restricting their contributions to complaining about "those darn kids", and "get off my lawn", but I for one will not.


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