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Why your Mom should care about software productivity tools

Great expectations

Odds are that your mom (and/or your dad) has started using Facebook.  Or you’ve heard them raving about how they can buy anything they want on Amazon and get it shipped for free in two days with Amazon Prime.  If they recently renovated their family rooms, they are now huge advocates of streaming TV shows on Netflix.  Of course, they’ve been Googling for years, though (oddly) they occasionally still ask you to do something that would take less time to simply Google for themselves. (Introduce them to and maybe they’ll get the hint…)

These sites are all fantastic, high-performance websites with a broad range of functionality.  Their engineering and product teams regularly develop new products, features and services and roll them out at massive scale with apparent ease.  The result is that your mom has facebook-amazon-netflix-google (recently dubbed “FANGs” by CNBC’s Jim Cramer) expectations from every web site or application that they use.  This includes their online bank, brokerage, retail, health insurance and many other everyday applications.

The disappointing reality…

Unfortunately, the reality of many web sites and applications is that they do not deliver the usability, functionality, scale or performance that FANG users expect.  The problem is that failure to achieve FANG performance can result in business death.  Whenever I use Amazon, I wonder why any buyer would tolerate poor performance on a retail site when they can get awesome performance on Amazon and get the same thing at a lower price with better service.

The need for a FANG-level online experience applies to almost every other area of our online lives.  For example, my health insurance provider sent me a survey and encouraged me to use their online form, but the online form proved so frustrating that eventually I just gave up and filled out the darn paper form, put a stamp on it and mailed it via snail mail.  Needless to say, the entire experience had a negative impact on my perception of their brand (which shall remain nameless but it left me feeling blue…).

Pressure from above

The drive to move business functionality to online self-service applications is well known.  It reduces costs and other business friction if customers can be acquired and serviced online.

Business leaders in every vertical are pushing for these efficiencies, but many find themselves unable to do everything it takes to deliver applications that satisfy the FANG-level expectations of customers.  There are lots of ways to for businesses to screw this up.  To start, they might not have the necessary monetary resources.  Or they might lack the necessary product vision, which can manifest itself in any number of ways, from poor usability on the front end to horrible database performance on the back end.

But, for the moment, let’s assume that your business has the necessary cash, a great product vision, and a well-architected solution from user interface to database.  In this case, the bottleneck becomes the number of developers and operations people that it takes to deliver the vision.

The Developer – our Unsung Hero

The pressure from above ends up squarely on the shoulders of the software developers and the operations teams that deliver software to their production environments.  With the explosion in web sites and applications for both enterprises and consumers, combined with the proliferation of devices for delivery of web content and applications, the demand for software developers has skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, software development is difficult and the educational requirements are rigorous, so the supply of developers has not kept up with demand.  This challenge becomes more acute for applications that require high scalability and performance, because these applications are typically developed with hierarchical, object-oriented languages such as Java, Scala and .NET–this is why I always tell my children, or any young person who will listen, that they should get into computer science and learn how to write code.

Mainly, if the supply of Java developers is limited and the applications are exploding, then my mom is not going to be happy with her apps unless there is some other solution. This is why she should care about productivity tools for developers and solutions that help operations people deliver applications to live environments at any time and with no interruptions.

Productivity tools for developers, such as our JRebel product, help eliminate the bottlenecks in the development process that slow down and/or distract developers from the task at hand.  Techniques and methodologies, such as agile development and continuous integration, help speed up the process of bringing software closer to deployment.  And the newest products, such as our LiveRebel solution, help enable one-click app releases to the QA or production environments.  Businesses must understand and invest in these tools if they want to have any chance of delivering software with FANG-like performance.  Failure to do so could mean business death.

When I go to work every day, I think of my mom on her computer with greater and greater expectations and the unsung software developers and ops guys with all the pressure to deliver.  With great productivity tools, FANG-like performance is more likely to be a reality, and our mothers will be happy.  Isn’t that what we all want?