A FRIEND OF mine is an accountant at a large
company. The CEO and other executives do not know
what accounting is, and that is OK. Everyone works
OK, that is a lie. No company like that exists.
I do have a friend, however, who is a software
engineer at a large company where the CEO and other
executives do not understand software. They don’t
understand what is reasonable to expect software
to do, how it is made, how software projects are
managed, or how a Web-based service is run.
That isn’t something that employ-
ees can “work around.”
Maybe that was OK years ago, but
it isn’t OK now. In fact, my advice to
this friend was to start sending out
Many companies that don’t think of
themselves as software companies are
finding that software is a key component of their operations. If executives
and management do not understand
how software is made, they will be ineffective compared to those who do. This
will either limit their careers or negatively affect their company’s performance.
Either way, they are doomed. (You don’t
have to take my word for it: Gartner predicted that 50% of CIOs who have not
transformed their organization’s capabilities by 2020 will be displaced. 9)
In this article, I list the things that
“executives who get software” understand in an effort to help those executives and managers who have found
themselves in this new world. The list
is not exhaustive, as the full list could
fill multiple books, but it is based on a
very unscientific poll of my friends in
Software Ate the World
In 2011, Marc Andreessen1 wrote an article predicting, “Software will eat the
world.” By that he meant two things:
First, many traditional businesses are
being replaced by software companies.
Second, all other companies are finding the value they deliver is increasingly a result of software.
When Andreessen wrote his article
none of the 10 biggest companies (by
market value) were in software-driven
businesses. Today, six of the 10 biggest companies are primarily driven
by software. The others are ripe for a
The first category is easy to understand; online music stores such as
Apple’s i Tunes have probably replaced
your local music store. A physical location is eliminated in favor of one solely
defined by software.
The second category is a subtler
change. For example, while automo-
Article development led by
Software acumen is the new norm.
BY THOMAS A. LIMONCELLI