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1000x Faster than Programming – Part 3: Our Strategy

In my previous two posts, I described the Simplicity / Functionality diagram and explained what the pitfalls of certain strategies are. In this third and final post of this short series, I will explain our vision on getting to Quadrant 4.

For Triggre this means that it is usable by business users, who have no technical knowledge, and think in terms of business processes and applications that support those processes. This usability must be combined with our aim to become 1000 times faster than traditional programming. Or in other words, 3 orders of magnitude faster.

The first step

We first started with the idea that ultimately led to Triggre in 2009. What we envisioned was a software platform that was so easy to use, and so fast, that you could pick up your smartphone and make a change while doing your daily commute with public transportation. Going from a vision to a product, especially as technically challenging as Triggre, is a big step. That’s why we decided that it would be best if we first introduced a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).

That product was designed, developed and tested between 2010 and 2013. By then, it still very far from our goal. It was fairly easy to use, but required a low level of technical knowledge to really get the most out of it. In the hands of experienced users it was fast though.

When creating the Triggre Benchmark, the record was set at 140 times faster than programming. That meant we were well over 2 orders of magnitude faster than programming. It was a big win for us though, since we had proved that the technology could work.

With our MVP we had immediately entered Quadrant 2, though we were far to the left and not that high up.

Steps toward the Holy Grail

By now you understand that in order for us to ever reach Quadrant 4, we would have to do something drastically different at that point. Becoming easier to use while offering more functionality is hard as it is, but our challenge is to combine this with a third order of magnitude in speed as well.

So our first move would be up, and then right, which requires a completely new concept. Preferably one that is prepared to subsequently move right in the diagram (at least a little bit) too and allows us to increase the speed as well.

Where the first point in the diagram is our first release, point 2 in the diagram is our recent release, code name Gulliver (September 1st, 2017). We gave it a code name because internally simply referring to Triggre wouldn’t work, since building this new version would take a long time.

For Gulliver, we went back to the drawing board. We decided that we should forget the Triggre Designer as it was then completely. We would throw everything away, and design a completely new concept.

Because with the knowledge we had acquired during the development of our MVP we could now design a new work flow that would solve those things that our customers still found hard to do in our first version. Instead of putting a band-aid on those things, we redesigned Triggre completely, aiming to achieve all of the big, hairy, audacious goals we had set.

Another order of magnitude

With a completely new concept, we already knew we were going to be able to develop applications much faster than before. Currently we are making a new version of our benchmark, to reflect this increase in speed, and we have a new record. Triggre is now 337 faster than programming at the maximum end of the spectrum. Not quite 1000 times, but not bad either.

While we were designing our new concept, we anticipated many more improvements. But to make sure we wouldn’t be developing forever, we scaled down our development as much as possible to get the absolute minimum of functionality that would work. That means that we still have many options to improve speed and ease-of-use, allowing us to move right and slightly up even, in the diagram!

More to come. And more. And more.

Triggre as it is now, is already a product we are very proud of. And the good news is that it will only get better. Our new concept allows for many more improvements that we will be making in the coming years, with each release either increasing functionality, improving ease-of-use, or increasing speed. The last two releases are already testament to this continuous improvement strategy.

Only 2 weeks after our big release on September 1st, we released our first improvement to increase functionality. We added new functions to our very easy-to-use rule editor, making it possible to create even more powerful business rules in an even simpler way.

Another 2 weeks later, on September 28th, we released a change to our data model that allows you to manage small lists in the designer. This means you will need less data items to achieve the same thing, while being easier to use. In other words, this release moved us up and right in the diagram at the same time!

Most recently (at the time of writing), we released a huge improvement. When you create a data item, you almost always want to be able to add, edit and remove those items using flow parts. That’s why we now generated those flow parts automatically, and keep them up to date as you change your data model. This increases development speed immensely.

We never give away what we have planned on our roadmap, but rest assured we will keep the improvements in speed, functionality and ease-of-use coming your way for a very long time!

1000x Faster than Programming – Part 2: Impossible Strategies

In my previous post I discussed the simplicity / functionality quadrant, which gives a good starting point to discuss strategies. If you haven’t read that post, I suggest you read it first and then return to this post. For reference, this is our quadrant:

Moving to another quadrant

There are many tools that live in quadrant 2. Complex, powerful tools that, when used by an experienced user, can deliver stunning results. Adobe Photoshop is a good example such a tool. It has so many options, I could probably write 1000 blog posts just covering the options, not to mention their many use cases. But these options come at the cost of high complexity, or in other words, the application is hard to use. So hard, that many books have been written about it, hundreds of pages each.

It is extremely hard to create an application that has the same power, yet is much easier to use. For example, Instagram is much easier to use, but far less powerful than Photoshop. Instagram therefore, lives in quadrant 3, where all easy-to-use yet less powerful tools live. The big question of course, is how do you get to quadrant 4?

Overcoming complexity

Let’s start by taking a look at those applications that currently reside in quadrant 2, the powerful, unwieldy tools. The shortest route for such a tool would be straight up, just make the application easier to use:

The problem however, is that it is extremely hard to make a powerful tool simpler. Often, in order to move even a little bit in this direction, a completely new concept is needed. If we take Photoshop and Instagram as an example, Instagram is a completely different concept than Photoshop and that makes it easier to use.

On the downside, it means it is less powerful. If Photoshop would ever want to reach quadrant 4 (which I think they don’t, but that’s a different discussion), they would have to start from scratch and come up with a completely new concept of how to do photo editing.

That concept must immediately be complete, because users will not accept less functionality in a new version (except for small changes that offer slightly less functionality). That means that they cannot move left on the diagram while moving up at the same time:

Both strategies are equally impossible. In the first case, the costs would be too high since every line of code would have to be rewritten in a completely redesigned concept. In the second strategy, the same concept is used, but only a part of the functionality is rewritten. Other options will be added later, to move into Quadrant 4.

This will never be accepted by users however, since they are accustomed to the functionality they have right now. That means it is extremely hard to move from Quadrant 2 to Quadrant 4, if not completely impossible.

Overcoming lack of functionality

But what if Instagram would want to move to Quadrant 4? The quickest way to get there is to simply move right along the axis of functionality:

The caveat is that this is not as easy as it looks. Simply adding more functionality results in more complexity. In other words, if you add more buttons to your application, it becomes harder to use. And instead of simply moving to the right, the application would quickly fall towards quadrant 2 instead:

The only remedy here is to have taken into account adding new features when designing the concept of the application. Much like adding simplicity is hard because it requires a different concept of how to use the application; adding features is also hard because it requires the concept of how to use the application to anticipate adding more functionality while remaining easy to use.

Instagram for example, is easy to use because it uses filters. If they wanted more functionality, they could add many more filters. But that would inevitably make it harder for the user to find the filter they want.

The holy grail

Getting to quadrant 4 is therefore very hard to do. It requires a deep understanding of the problem that the application or platform is trying to solve, as well as much creativity in devising a new way to do so. Instead of thinking in terms of features, or usability alone, designers must think in concepts. And most importantly, designers must be willing to design a new concept from scratch in order to move into quadrant 4.

1000x Faster than Programming – Part 1: The Simplicity / Functionality Quadrant

Recently we released a completely redesigned version of our platform, which has been about 3 years in the making. The decision to work on a completely new concept was not an easy one.

However, if we want to reach our goal of being 1.000 times faster than programming and being the easiest way to make applications, this decision was extremely necessary. In this series of posts I will explain the reasoning behind our strategy, and talk about a few things yet to come along that strategy.

Hard to use versus easy to use

We want Triggre to be the easiest way to make applications. The first thing to realize is that our target audience, business process minded people, differs a lot from developers. Making sure that business users, without technical knowledge, can make software, requires Triggre to be very easy to use. But what exactly does that mean, easy to use?

Programming applications is hard. It requires a lot of logical knowledge, and often a completely different way of thinking than business users are used to. There are many technical issues that need to be resolved during development.

All of those technical issues need to be automated in order for business users to be able to work with a platform such as Triggre. That is ultimately what is means to be easy to use in my perception; that business users can quickly understand what they need to do to make or change an application.

More functionality versus less functionality

When you make an application using any technology, the more functionality it provides, the more you can make with it. From the perspective of our customers therefore, more functionality is preferred over less functionality. Simply because if Triggre offers more possibilities, customers can use it in more cases.

The simplicity / functionality trade-off

So we want an easy to use platform that offers a lot of functionality. And that is exactly where the trade-off between simplicity and functionality occurs. We can show this in a 2-axis drawing, where on the one axis we have functionality and on the other we have ease of use, giving us 4 quadrants:

Quadrant 1 – nothing box

If a platform is not easy to use and does not have much functionality … it does nothing right. That’s why this quadrant is called the nothing box. You never, ever want to work on, or with, and application or platform that is in this quadrant.

Quadrant 2 – tech corner

Here we find tools that offer a lot of functionality, and consequently require a deep technical understanding to use. These are often very powerful tools or platforms, such as Microsoft Visual Studio or Adobe Photoshop for example. In terms of platforms, these are the rapid application development platforms that many developers use.

Quadrant 3 – tool shed

In the tool shed, we find easy to use applications and platforms that are good a one or a few things. Think of it like a real tool shed, where each tool has a single purpose. A screw driver is best used for fastening screws for example. While it can be used to make a hole in the wall, you’d probably prefer another tool for such a task.

Quadrant 4 – holy grail

This is the ultimate category, the jacks of all trades that are also easy to use. Quadrant 4 is where every application wants to be, but hardly any end up.

What you can learn from a tiny European country

One of the most persistent prejudices around is that governments, both local as well as national, implement changes at an excruciatingly slow pace. Not because a government does not desire change but because, not unlike large companies, governments tend to get limited by legacy.

Things have been “going the way they are” for such a long time that change requires more than just a new process. Still, there is an example out there that defies this prejudice: Estonia. Yes, this tiny country sets the example for both governments as companies.

Nicknamed E-stonia, this country has only been an independent republic since 1991 and since then, has set high goals in terms of market liberalization. To facilitate this, successful digitalization was a key pillar in their strategy. Let’s take a closer look at their approach and what organizations can learn from it.

Combining services

Estonia has a view on their citizens that many companies can take as an example. The government is there to make life easier. Its job is to facilitate the inhabitants of Estonia in their personal, as well as their business life. To achieve all this, the country has implemented Government as a Service

One of the examples is their national ID card. It is not only a means of identification. It is, among other things, a public transport card, health insurance card, way to do your taxes and sign digital documents. You can use it to start a company, vote, take care of inheritances and so on. And before you say, “I can use my ID card for many of those things too”, all the before mentioned actions, are possible or manageable online.

In terms of activities or services you need the government for, you can arrange 99% online. In order to get married, though, you still need to leave the house.

Think of what this would mean for a company. Providing your customer with a way to skip long waits by making relevant information available to them. You empower the customer and come across as a customer friendly organization at the same time.

Facilitating citizens

Estonia has certain principles that the government has to live by. For example, they can only ask for certain information once. When a citizen has provided the information to (a branch of) their government, the different branches need to first ask for the info internally, before they can bother a citizen with it. This principle, in which they put their “customer” first, in the end, prevents double work for the government as well as the inhabitants.

Companies, when looking at their own processes should also always think from a customer’s perspective when digitalizing. This might not be the easiest route but, as E-stonia proves, it is a highly effective one.

Author: Dagmar Ingelse

How developers getting more expensive is silently killing innovation

It is hardly a big secret that it is hard to find good developers. And that salaries for these developers have steadily been increasing over the past years. Faster than other salaries, as well. This is just how the market works, so what’s the big deal about it?

The big shortage

In our whitepaper about the IT Shortage we give a lot of background on the ever growing shortage of developers and solutions. But let’s focus on just the main issue at hand: the shortage itself. Most people I talk to only experience developer salaries going up and the fact that it is hard to find developers on the labor market. A very interesting number however, is the actual absolute shortage.

Last year the number of software engineering students graduating in the US was 50.000. Universities have been estimated to be able to educate 8 times that amount by 2020, meaning 400.000 software engineering students graduate that year. So far, so good.

The problem becomes apparent when we look at the amount of job openings in the labor market for software engineers. In 2016 the number of job openings was 223.000 in the US. Gartner estimates that this number will grow up to 1.400.000 in 2020. In other words, last year 23% of job openings could be covered by graduate students, in 2020 still only 28% of job openings can be covered by graduate students.

That’s hardly an improvement. In the chart below I have plotted these numbers so you can easily see the problem.

Chart

Because the most detailed data was available for the US, I have used that data. However, similar numbers are found in almost every other developed country around the world.

The source of the demand

The increase in demand for software developers can be attributed to growth in many sectors that require software. The biggest growth is in the demand for custom software. In 2011 the world-wide demand for custom software was USD 43 billion. This grew with 33% per year to a whopping USD 136 billion in 2015.

This growth is expected to continue due to globalization forcing ever more companies to distinguish themselves from ever more competitors. One way to do this, is with custom built software that implements their unique business processes.

Below is a chart that shows this growth from 2011 through 2015.

Chart

Stagnating innovation

The combination of higher demand versus ever increasing developer salaries is a toxic one. Ultimately it means that only the richest of companies can afford to hire enough developers to keep their competitors at bay.

These front-runners can easily expand their lead, leading to more revenue. This revenue can then be used to pay developers even more, making sure they don’t go to the competitor. Companies that cannot cope with the increases in developer costs, will be sentenced to mere mediocrity.

Guest blog – Digital logistics doesn’t require IT!

Coordinating processes better without extra pressure on IT: it is possible. And supply chain management employees who act as a link between managers, suppliers, procurement, and other parties involved want to know how. Because it will save time- and costs, and boosts their efficiency.

As a Distribution Supplier Manager, I figured that a hassle-free software solution would do the trick for me. And it did, which I’d like to elaborate on in this blog!

Digitalizing inbound and outbound processes

On a daily basis, I am dealing with a variety of stakeholders. Reporting to managers, optimizing processes, informing suppliers, and ensuring that suppliers keep me up to date: it is all part of the job. Coordinating all the inbound and outbound processes involved in supply chain management, however, is no mean feat. So working with the right applications is paramount for me.

Flexibility and speed are essential characteristics of a software solution, and what I don’t want are months-long IT processes that slow down everything and beat down creativity.

The answer? Triggre. Since we’ve started using it, we are able to see virtually all of the parcels that we receive on a day-to-day basis, which we can translate to a better planning. Moreover, we can instantly check the purchase orders we received, which allows us to determine what products need to be cross-docked immediately.

With respect to outbound processes, Triggre has also made our work a lot easier. For example, by helping us classify and disclose all the shipping requirements by country and product, so every employee can ship products at the end of the day.

Naturally, all of this has resulted in a major advantage: happier, satisfied customers.

Trigger efficiency!

In my case, Triggre has proved that the right software can help me track and trace any purchase order, thus allowing us to create an efficient planning. I had been looking for flexible, easily adaptable, and hassle-free software for quite a while, and Triggre has provided the solution – by triggering and promoting efficiency with regard to our processes!

Guest Author: Adrie Dore

Soon-to-be-released version of Triggre: “Less buttons, more options, greater fun!”

At Triggre, we believe that everyone should be able to make software. Today, CTO and co-founder Jesse Meijers explains the company’s vision as well as the newest version of Triggre, which will soon be released.

“Creating software quickly, smoothly, and easily”

The IT hassle that many businesses struggle with can be solved through empowerment. “There is a growing shortage of skilled, well-educated developers,” says Jesse. “This places limits on the ability of companies to make the software they need. So we said, ‘What if people on the business side could create software and achieve innovation?’” Shortly afterwards, Triggre was born.

“We talked to companies that were completely committed to fostering the growth of their core product and didn’t have time to work on side projects. Understandable, but a shame – because these projects allow them to save costs and innovate.”

With Triggre, they could finally create their own software. The results were incredible: “Triggre has made the software creation process more than 50 times faster.

Traditional IT projects are often a hassle because they take a lot of time. In our rapidly changing world, this means you constantly need to make adjustments while working on a project. The result is that many projects get increasingly expensive, but never reach the finish line.”

“Simplifying software creation while increasing possibilities”

The more buttons you have, the more difficult it is to navigate and choose: “It’s the same with a restaurant’s menu. I’d rather have 4 options than 100, because it makes for an easier choice.” So Triggre strived for lesser buttons while still providing a lot of functionality from the very start.

“Our new, soon-to-be-released version is a huge step in simplifying the creation of applications without limiting possibilities. In fact, our new version offers even more possibilities than before.”

“Creating software 100 times faster”

The new version of Triggre will make the software creation process at least 100 times faster for those who are used to working with developers: “It will at least double the already incredible speed of the current version. What this could mean, for example, is that you can create custom-made software such as a CRM system, a Supply Chain Management system, or a customer portal within a couple of days instead of months.”

Jesse has noticed that the quick establishment of such complex systems is usually only the beginning: “Once businesses start using their newly created systems, it triggers innovation. They get new ideas, which can also be realized quickly using Triggre. Simplifying the software creation process brings back the fun, and they feel inspired to foster automation.”

If you ask Jesse, the future looks bright: “We aim to turn software creation into a commodity. Currently only very few people can make software, but I believe that the possibilities in this area will only expand. Our goal is to empower people, take the hassle out of IT, and make software creation fun!”

Author: Dagmar Ingelse

Guest blog – From scratch to finish in no time: stopping the ‘IT drag’

Every good solution starts with a brilliant idea. So if you have inspiration for a new software solution that will make your life easier, the last thing you want is the infamous ‘IT drag’ to spoil the fun. Stretched-out development stages, pompous IT talk, and constant hardware and software upgrades pose limitations to your creativity and efficiency. What you want – and need – is to realize your ideas in no time, so you can start benefiting from software without the hassle.

As an IT consultant, I am well aware of all this. Finding the right (software) solution, however, proved to be difficult.

That is, until I got acquainted with Triggre. In this blog, I would like to tell you about my experience with software creation minus the ‘IT drag.’ It has made my life – and that of the IT department – a whole lot easier!

From healthy skepticism to convincing test case

I will be honest with you. When Triggre first told me that it could provide us with cloud solutions which did not require any programming knowledge, I was as skeptical as I was curious. I invited them over, they explained their concept, and I took on the challenge of gaining a better understanding of their platform. Their test case surprised me: I was able to build an application faster than ever before. I went from scratch to finish in no time – hassle-free. It was an IT consultant’s dream. Triggre’s promises were not empty, and I was sold.

Working faster and more efficiently with Triggre’s tools

Today, our company is happily using several applications, such as an asset tool, a Harmonized Tariff code application, an Inbound Routing Guide, and an Outbound Routing Guide. The latter – which calculates transportation costs, additional costs like fuel, and ETA – deserves a special mention; it has eliminated over 20 Ms Access databases that had been created over a period of more than 20 years! With its ability to provide automated emails, alerts, and live reporting for management, it has allowed our employees to work faster, more efficiently, and more effectively. In due time, we will definitely introduce this ingenious application at a global level.

Flexible and carefree: even for IT!

Briefly put, I am happy with Triggre. Our greatest gain is that we can now make changes in no time. And we never have to worry about hardware or software upgrades again!

Guest author: John L’Espoir

Hassle-free software creation: join the new movement!

A new movement is gaining ground in the business community, and it is based on one simple question: How can I make software without IT? People who understand processes should be able to roll up their sleeves and implement their ideas without having to walk the beaten IT path before getting tangible results. Their creativity should not be limited, so they will be more willing to innovate. In short, businesses want to be in control when it comes to software creation; and rightly so.

Today, virtually every company needs IT to provide a way to disclose core systems. For example, communicating with the ERP system used should be a breeze. To achieve this in a hassle-free way, entrepreneurs, CEOs, and managers alike should ask three key questions.

1. How can I take the hassle out of IT?

Cloud solutions ensure that you are completely unburdened, as they eliminate the well-known hardware and software hassles. If you want to be a part of the digital revolution, you need a solid cloud solution. Triggre will provide you with the entire cloud stack, which includes everything you require to run a web application in the cloud: from a server all the way down to the database software. This means that you can stop worrying about essential IT concerns such as security and data traffic, which are included. Instead, you can immediately start with the fun part: creating your own software, hassle free!

2. Which conditions should I set?

If you opt for a cloud solution, you should first assess what you need. In-house knowledge is not required – you can ‘outsource’ that part to your cloud solution provider – but it is important to have an ability to adjust where necessary. Furthermore, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try to learn from every initiative, so you can improve over time. This often requires a shift in your company culture, but it is definitely worth it.

3. What kind of talent do I need?

 Business creatives who have a firm grasp of processes are indispensable. They are the ones who will take initiative, experiment, and come up with fresh ideas without having a fear of failure. In doing so, they will bring your employees closer together and provide what you need to survive as a business. It is important to realize that tomorrow’s team does not consist of all the people you work with today. If you want to innovate through software creation, you need to sketch a picture of what your business should look like in the (near) future and attract the right talent!

Guest blog- Innovating empowerment

At AtoomClub, we believe in a selection of key values to set us apart from other concepts. The thing is, that values may remain theoretical and only start to contribute to your business when they are practiced. Not by some, but through the entire organization. Simply put, talking about these values is only the first step. In the end, it’s the enactment of these values that makes the difference.

Empowering customers

One of our values is empowerment. Our customers must feel that they are enabled throughout every aspect of having their office at AtoomClub. This means that they

need to feel they are more than just tenants: They are a part of AtoomClub. To achieve this, we need to constantly review current concepts and processes. Points of improvement are nothing but an opportunity.

One of the things that needed improvement was our way of providing customers with meeting rooms. The booking process was tedious. It just needed to fit our concept better. We wanted a way that was fast, simple and could expand easily. Meetings with colleagues, partners and prospects are important for any organization and arranging this should be hassle-free.

Empowerment of ourselves

While looking for a partner to achieve this improvement, it proved that a lean way of making a new application was harder than anticipated. Out-of-the-box solutions did not fit our needs and custom-made applications were, well, costly. And, more importantly, none of these options provided us with a simple way to adjust the application in case of growth or new insights in our customers wishes.

After a careful selection process, we decided to make our own application with Triggre. Making an application ourselves, was not something we would have thought of beforehand. To be honest, we never considered that to be an option. It sounded innovative, which perfectly fits our vision. But at the same time, it was a bit scary. It proved to be an excellent choice. Innovation might start when you look at your own processes; it takes shape when a company like Triggre empowers you.

Author: Jeroen van Eck