Sign In

Communications of the ACM


The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way

The Responsive Enterprise: Embracing the Hacker Way, illustrative photo

Credit: Sergey Mironov

back to top 

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.


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.

Displaying 1 comment

Log in to Read the Full Article

Sign In

Sign in using your ACM Web Account username and password to access premium content if you are an ACM member, Communications subscriber or Digital Library subscriber.

Need Access?

Please select one of the options below for access to premium content and features.

Create a Web Account

If you are already an ACM member, Communications subscriber, or Digital Library subscriber, please set up a web account to access premium content on this site.

Join the ACM

Become a member to take full advantage of ACM's outstanding computing information resources, networking opportunities, and other benefits.

Subscribe to Communications of the ACM Magazine

Get full access to 50+ years of CACM content and receive the print version of the magazine monthly.

Purchase the Article

Non-members can purchase this article or a copy of the magazine in which it appears.
Sign In for Full Access
» Forgot Password? » Create an ACM Web Account