If everyone is now a software company, should they operate more like software companies?

As a formerly non-tech company morphs into a software company, its most important asset becomes... software. Well, and people too.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer
Companies are relying on software for just about everything, to the point that everyone has become, to some degree, a software company. In a new survey of 600 IT and business professionals, two-thirds say that software now drives their company's most important decisions. Close to one-quarter say the quality of their software -- the kind it uses or sells -- is paramount to their companies' success and ability to grow.
Photo: CERN Press Office

But are these companies doing enough to ensure the quality and performance of their software? In the past, appliance manufacturers ultimately paid the penalty for shipping faulty washing machines or refrigerators, clothing producers wouldn't last long selling low-quality fabrics and stitching, and so on.

Now that everyone is in the software business, is there enough attention being paid to this prime product? Unfortunately, not yet, the survey, sponsored by QASymphony, finds. While the survey's sponsor has a horse in this race (they offer quality assurance automation tools), it's worth noting that the results point to a pressing need -- organizations have changed their business models over the past decade, but are not paying enough attention to their emerging digital sides.

Perhaps there are lessons that need to be learned from the technology industry in designing, producing and securing software. At least 63% say that software companies have their own way of operating, which needs to be examined and emulated where appropriate.

For example, concepts such as Agile development and DevOps are a big deal in the native software industry. That means lots of time and investment in versioning, fixing bugs, and updates. It means more emphasis on shipping software as quickly as possible to achieve time to market, while ensuring quality and usability. IT means automating as much of the software development and release process as possible.

It's not that companies aren't working on the challenges. Close to nine in 10 (88%) now employ DevOps methodologies, and 42% strongly agree that DevOps is a top priority for their organizations. However, only 24% express strong satisfaction in the current state of their DevOps programs.

Two-thirds say there are gaps in their software testing, and that as much as half of all time spent by their companies on software development time is consumed by ensuring code quality and/or fixing software bugs. A similar number agree that their testing processes are slowing their time to market.

There are some other traits seen with software companies not covered in the survey that also should be studied. On the plus side, the tech culture that exists within vendors is often very open to innovation, and new approaches to solving problems. For every issue, there is a workaround, most often involving technology -- and industry leaders are never afraid to try new things. At the same time, a tech-driven company won't succeed without solid marketing to help it elevate its products above the noise. But a tech culture isn't necessarily conducive to marketing, and it's often a challenge to bring these two sides together.

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