The Secret Behind Silicon Valley

June 9, 2015 Stacey Schneider

sfeatured-pivotallabs-tealThis week, Pivotal’s Rob Mee presented at the Global ICT Summit in Tokyo, Japan. Organized by the Nikkei and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, Rob was asked to present on how software is disrupting economies and industries worldwide, and how traditional approaches, paradigms and processes need to change in order to compete in these modern times.

Say It Again—Software Is Eating The World

Underscoring the types of radical changes software is making to businesses models, Rob pointed out 4 different examples where software was so powerful it tacitly replaced the need for business assets.

  • Uber. The world’s largest taxi company owns no vehicles.
  • Facebook. The world’s most popular media company creates no content.
  • Alibaba. The world’s most valuable retail company has no inventory.
  • Airbnb. The world’s largest accommodation provider owns no real estate.

Software is helping companies compete more aggressively on product, business model and user experience. Companies like Square are inventing cash registers that fit in a baby’s palm, turning your phone or tablet into a critical business device that can wander. Backed with free mobile point of sale tools, online stores and reporting, all types of retailers, professional services, and transportation providers are flocking to use this service.

On the consumer side, Apple is reinventing how we pay these merchants, encapsulating the entire process in one natural motion. By means of paving the way to a new standard in payment experience, Apple has managed to insert itself into the payments industry—effectively inserting itself as another step in a value chain, while convincing us all it is a good thing.

The Secret To Digital Transformation Is Culture

For more than 25 years, Rob has lead Pivotal Labs, the organization known for setting the bar for software development excellence. In fact, many of the companies disrupting industries today have worked with Pivotal Labs at some point to get there.

The secret is simple—it’s rooted in your company’s culture. Your company needs to transform itself to become a software company, with hyper focus on building something meaningful inside a framework that encourages productivity and quality. At a high level, there are 3 key principles that need to permeate your culture in order to gain the kind of focus needed to complete your digital transformation.

  • Agile development with pair programming. To truly embrace agile development, there is a lot to learn. By pairing developers, you optimize a learning environment. Agile experts can share process knowledge. Programming language experts can share technical expertise. And by switching up pairs and assignments routinely, developers gain a broader understanding of all of the systems supporting their applications. Armed with better expertise and understanding of the full application, pairs turn out results more quickly by breaking down barriers to development more faster. They are also able to quickly replicate their knowledge too, affording companies to rapidly scale development organizations.
  • Test driven development. Before developing a single line of code for an application, the Pivotal Way shows that you should be writing test scripts. With the benchmarks for successful code outlined and stored in a test automation library, code is easier to develop and regression testing becomes built in. This process both reduces risk of bugs, and streamlines the development process—helping companies predictably churn out better code more quickly.
  • Open cloud platform. This is the new element, and why Pivotal Labs was excited to join a larger software company. An open cloud platform like Pivotal Cloud Foundry enables automation of deployment and operations. This dramatically reduces the overhead of building and running applications, allowing customers to focus on innovation. By using a ready-to-run platform, companies of all types and sizes now have the opportunity to develop the same way that internet giants like Google and Facebook do today – within days or hours. Being open source software, they also can customize the experience and support for additional technologies very quickly, either by extending it themselves, or borrowing from other users within the community. Also, with support for both public and private clouds, where to run your application does not require refactoring your application—it just requires a press of a button.

By embracing these three elements, and making them central to your development practices, a critical amount of focus is funneled into innovation and building the right thing. By shedding overhead, it all gets built faster. And as a happy by-product, job satisfaction rises and recruitment of top talent becomes easier to recruit for all kinds of reasons, including highly predictable work schedules, skills building and empowerment.

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