Unfolding plans 165 – the demand curve

You can do anything with ICT given enough time and money.  Well, nearly anything.  That’s great.  It means that we can all do thousands of things now that we couldn’t do in the past.  Things are certainly different from when I was a lad.  When I was at school we had no computers at all.  (But we were lucky!)

Over the weekend I was catching up on some TV and was streaming it across the broadband using iPlayer and casting it onto the big television.  I took it all for granted but when you stop and think about these things they are mind-blowingly fantastic.

And sometime that’s not so great.  Because we can do so much, people come to expect so much of us.  Because a lot of what we do goes on in the background, unseen and not understood, it is assumed that everything that needs to be done is easy to sort out.  The impression is that the world can be run from a smartphone screen with your phone.  Of course every day we seem to get a bit closer to that Nirvana or Hades depending upon your point of view.

We are the victims of our own industry’s success.  We have been hoisted with our own petard.  The faster and shinier the technology becomes the more the fires of demand are flamed.  The creation of tech has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  It was Evgeny Morozov, in his book ‘To Save Everything, Click Here’ who first introduced me to solutionism – delivering solutions to problems that don’t need fixing and our industry is rife with it.

The number of apps available is now in the hundreds of thousands.  Every day over fifty million mobile apps are downloaded yet only five per cent are still being used after a month.  Either they are delivering something that we don’t really have a use for, they do not deliver against their promise or the thrill of the new makes us get bored very easily.  Perhaps they didn’t have any real value in the first place.  Whatever the reason there is clearly a high attrition rate in this market.

Yet the same is true in the business software market.  The speed of change may not be as rapid yet most of the applications we use come packed with features and functionality which remains unused and unloved on a virtual shelf.

So what is to be done?  Perhaps we should take that step back away from the edge, take a deep breath and ask the obvious question.  Ok, we can but should we?

Is there an actual need for the product we are developing?  Will it improve efficiency or reduce cost (if there is a difference)?  Would customers be prepared to part with their hard earned money to fund its development?  Are people ready and able to use it?

There is a time when it is right to develop new software and introduce new applications.  We need to make sure that our development programme stays just ahead of what the customer is expecting and can deal with.  We mustn’t get too far ahead of the demand curve.

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