At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, most commentators were distracted by a bewildering array of new smartphones and tablet PCs. But author and consultant Vinnie Mirchandani was struck by a different trend.
“At the event, there were at least 50 non-IT companies launching software products,” he recalls, “whether it was [US pharmacy giant] Walgreens launching a medical smartphone app or Ford Motors showcasing its new in-car systems.”
The reason for this, Mirchandani argues, is that these companies have decided to take technology innovation into their own hands. “Many of these are 100-year-old companies, so nobody knows their customers better than they do,” he says. “They’re tired of waiting for the IT industry to come up with what they need, and they’re doing their own R&D.”
Typically, though, these companies have not used their own internal IT resources to develop these tools, Mirchandani says. Instead, they have partnered with external R&D agencies or technology suppliers.
This is not without its risks, he adds. “I was speaking to the CEO of a software company about this trend,” Mirchandani recalls. “‘They’ll screw it up,’ he said.”
Managing software development cycles, versioning, upgrades and bug fixes is something that the IT sector has learned over five decades. If an organisation is pursuing this kind of strategy, Mirchandani argues, it is up to the IT department to bring its experience of managing technology to bear, lest the company suffer an embarrassing glitch or worse.