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Building software that fuels business growth

Far from declining in importance, technology matters more than ever.


Guest Commentary
Building software that fuels business growth
By Philip Brittan, CEO, Droplets

Industry gurus claiming that technology no longer matters to Corporate America may be drawing the wrong conclusion from the wrong evidence. They cite a slow down in corporate spending during the past few years as proof of IT's declining importance. They fail, however, to take into account that the continuing rapid pace of innovation is creating some of the most profound changes in our computing model in 20 years. Far from declining in importance, technology matters more than ever.

A recent study by MIT establishes a strong link between IT investment and productivity gains. The study found that these gains come five to seven years after the actual IT investment. As a result, corporate investments made back in the 90s are still contributing to productivity growth today. Few other investments can make a similar claim. Technology matters to Corporate America's bottom-line because today's investments fuel tomorrow's growth.

Independent software vendors, who are hard at work creating the applications that business runs on, can contribute to the future productivity gains of their customers by implementing three important strategies:

1. Embrace open standards. The open standards movement is gaining acceptance because companies are value-conscious. They want to simplify IT, control costs and ease system integration. A recent study by Juniper Research found that one in five small and mid-size businesses use the free, open standards Linux operating system. Open systems help customers connect and combine the IT systems they already own, avoiding the high costs of ripping and replacing when changes are needed. Integrated systems also support the entire business, not just individual silos or a single business process. Not long ago, integration was considered principally a benefit for large companies with multiple divisions and a global reach. Now the Web brings the benefits of integration to smaller companies, helping them more easily manage their supply chain of vendors and partners.

Without open standards, best-of-breed IT integration just can't occur. Open architectures allows developers to create applications, such as payroll, or supply chain management, able to run on any platform, over the Internet, and work easily with other software regardless of vendor.

Software vendors also broaden their reach to 95 percent of the market opportunity when they use open environments, such as Linux or Java, in addition to proprietary systems such as Windows, which serves about 40 percent of the market.

2. Build technology that creates new levels of productivity for your customer. Recognize that the network, not the desktop, is now the backbone of corporate computing. Building applications that deliver services over the Web can create a sea change in how companies operate, and will drive the attributes of the Internet -- speed, responsiveness, flexibility and collaboration -- into their business model. The concept of "on demand" business has the potential to become the standard companies use to differentiate themselves from competitors.

3. Be certain the technology you create is easy to use. More often software products fail because they are too difficult to use, not because they lack this feature or that function. Workers simply won't use software that is difficult to learn or doesn't operate easily with the other software they use everyday. If software products don't win over the workers, they remain underutilized and can't deliver the results companies want to achieve. In contrast when a product is simple to use, businesses get a faster return on their investment, and see the value of investing in new technology.

Using these strategies, software vendors are creating technology that matters -- technology that helps customers fuel tomorrow's growth and remain effective, profitable enterprises well into the future.

About the Author:

Philip Brittan has been writing software and running software companies for over 15 years. He grew up on a ranch in Montana and has a degree in Computer Science from Harvard University. He is currently Chairman of Droplets, Inc., which he founded. Previously, he founded and ran software development firm Spheresoft, Inc., and before that he was lead developer, then VP Product Development, and finally CEO of financial software firm Astrogamma. Philip has been featured in numerous articles, has spoken at industry events, and is a regular commentator on the Java.net community site.


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