Managers – especially those with an entrepreneurial spirit – often encounter numerous issues when trying to get software projects off the ground. At Triggre, we regularly meet such managers, and we understand their frustration which stems from the fact that they want to accomplish their IT goals at a pace that their IT department can’t keep up with. But why is that? Why are IT projects a hassle?

A lack of understanding

Suppose you’re a forward-thinking manager with innovative ideas, and you ask your IT experts to adjust or develop something you consider to be minor. Their response? “That will take three weeks – at least.” You don’t get it. This should be simple, so why are they making it difficult? The long wait doesn’t help either; it only widens the gap between you and your IT people. The result: a mutual lack of understanding.

Other interests

If you’re depending on an external IT supplier, their interests differ strongly from yours. They don’t want to empower you to a level where you don’t need them anymore. Their business benefits from returning customers – which is why they want you to come back and ask them for solutions. At Triggre, this is not an issue, as you can realize your ideas independently. This means our success depends on our customers’ success – a very different approach than most software companies opt for!

New insights

As a manager, you gain new insights every day. Your IT experts, however, don’t offer room for these. They dive into an idea for six months, and once they present you with the result, your vision may already have changed fundamentally. At times, this can be very frustrating and cost-ineffective!

Insufficient involvement

IT people tend to respond to fresh requests in a very bureaucratic manner. A variety of forms need to be filled out and several meetings are organized, often restraining a manager’s innovative thinking process. As a manager, you can see the urgency or benefits of your idea, but you quickly find yourself bending over backwards to break through a bureaucratic, abstract wall.

Do you recognize these issues that make the realization of innovative software ideas a hassle? And are you tired of them? Don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your opportunities. At Triggre, you can create your own software. It’s fun and hassle-free!

It was the summer of 2001, when I walked into the office of a small student recruitment agency. They were in the business of finding exceptionally talented students for part-time jobs working in the IT industry.

For students, it meant bringing their knowledge into practice, while for the companies it was both an opportunity to get work done at a low price, as well as a recruitment channel. But I was there for a different reason.

The breakdown

The recruitment agency had asked me to custom build their website. Nowadays you wouldn’t build your own CMS, but in the early days of the internet, this was more common. So, there I was, ready to talk requirements on a hot summer day, in the souterrain of a canal house in Amsterdam.

Across the table from me was one of the owners of the agency. They explained in detail what the goal of the site was, which functionality he wanted and how things should look. We made a few changes to the sketches he had already made, and I was good to go.

To give an accurate quote, I broke down the work into smaller pieces. Designing the database, writing code to retrieve and store data, and code to handle the functionality. Finally, writing HTML and CSS to make sure the site would look nice in all browsers.

I then estimated each piece separately, making sure no single estimation was higher than 1 day of work. If that was the case, I would break it down into smaller pieces. Grand total: about 10 days.

Doing the work

With the estimation and the work in hand, I started coding. I already had considerable experience at the time, since I was used to doing a lot of similar coding, so I was confident in my estimations. As I was coding, I continuously checked how much time I had for each piece. This forced me to work quickly and effectively.

After I had finished coding and testing I had spent exactly 4 hours less than I had estimated. The site was now ready to be tested by the agency.

Big surprise

When I entered the office of the recruitment agency again, the owner was already there. He had tested the site and, apart from a few minor pointers, it was completely to his liking. Then he told me that he didn’t expect me to finish this quickly. He had actually anticipated the project to take 1.5 to 2 times longer!

I was perplexed, I had given him a very detailed quote, which he’d accepted and he expected me to take longer than I told him? What did he know about how fast I can work!? So I decided to ask him why he thought I would take so much longer.

In his experience, he had never had a project done in the estimated time. It usually took at least 1.5 times longer than projected, which is why he had already factored in this number. He then told me that he did the same towards clients. A student would give him a quote, he would double it, and present that to his customer.

It all seemed strange to me, these were people that were good at what they did, had some experience with it, yet couldn’t estimate a simple project correctly… I didn’t give it much more thought then; my customer was happy and I was happy having done a good job.

Estimating is key

Years later, I encountered similar situations in software projects where I wasn’t the one making the quote. It only then occurred to me that there was something that most quotes have in common, which leads to the estimation being incorrect.

Where I had broken down all my work into neat little pieces that were easy to estimate, this is not always possible. There are several reasons why this is the case. The most common one is that not all requirements are known when the quote is requested, making it very hard to give an accurate quote. Estimating for uncertainty is something that is bound to be inaccurate.

Another reason is that usually the work isn’t broken down into smaller pieces that are each estimated separately. Rather, the project is estimated as a whole, or in big chunks of work. Humans are notoriously bad at estimating, which means that the larger the chunks are, the bigger the difference between the quote and the actual effort will be.

The final reason is the most important one. You have requested a quote. But you have not requested a single quote. Usually, you request multiple quotes. And the most important decision factor is price. This means that companies will often leverage the fact they don’t know all requirements. They will estimate everything that is known, but leave all other points open. This will of course be ironclad in the fine print.

Getting good quotes

To get a good quote, it is very important to have someone who can judge the details of the quote. And I don’t mean the financials, that’s the easy part. It’s about the technical details. You will need to involve one of your team members who can identify what has been left out, even if it’s not specified.

The most overlooked aspects are usually security and testing. Testing should simply be part of the quote, as well as fixing any issues that emerge from testing. Security is a very costly aspect if not done right. And getting it right, is hard. So, make sure to get a security expert involved in all of your software projects, as early as possible.

And the last thing you can do, is to ask for a fixed price for the entire project. This can identify the points of the quote that have intentionally be left open. Because when the company knows they cannot charge you more if it costs more time, it is suddenly in their best interest (instead of yours) to get the quote right.

Over the past years working with the amazing team at Triggre, I have learned a few valuable lessons on how to foster creativity in a team. Just because your team consists of the best people, doesn’t mean that they will be creative. And while it is absolutely true that some are more creative than others, stimulating creativity will nevertheless make a huge difference.

Define a clear goal

One of the most important things to do when increasing a team’s creative output, is to define a very clear goal. A clear goal doesn’t mean something that is defined in detail. Rather, it provides a guideline for the team to decide what to do. This means that a complete design document with all kinds of technical specifications is not a clear goal in the sense that I am talking about. “Making the world’s most efficient solar panel”, however is.

So a clear goal is a little bit further into the future, allowing for more ways to achieve it and doesn’t define details. Let me give you an example. Our product, Triggre, allows users to make software without technical knowledge. Our goal is to make our Designer as easy as it can be for those users, while still being able to make complex business applications.

This high-level goal has led our R&D team to come up with some fantastic solutions, including ways to prevent users making infinite loops in processes and a fantastically simple way of showing the user where something is wrong in his design.

Stupid ideas are good

The more stupid ideas, the better. This may sound counter-intuitive, but this is absolutely vital. As a team, when you’re trying to find a different way to do something, you need as many ideas you can come up with. Even if it is a blatantly obvious stupid idea, it needs to be shared.

While designing a new concept for our Triggre Designer, we would often brainstorm on some of the challenges. These brainstorms were often full of ideas that we knew wouldn’t work because they directly contradicted some part of our design philosophy. Still we shared those ideas and we would laugh at the funniest of them, all together. So how did that help us?

Well, the nice thing about ideas is that, even though they might not completely satisfy all the aspects you want in a solution. They usually embody a new way of solving the problem, if you have a clearly defined goal. Even if the idea doesn’t solve the problem, having a new perspective, no matter how silly, will trigger other ideas that may very well be the breakthrough you are looking for. So whatever you do, embrace stupid ideas. They’re worth way more than you might think.

Trust is absolutely vital

It takes a lot of guts for someone to share an idea, let alone one that is guaranteed not to be the solution. Especially if they’re not the one who’s in charge. On the one hand, saying you have a silly idea helps, but what’s more important is that someone actually gets to the point where they feel they are allowed to come up with ideas that won’t work in the first place. This requires a very high level of trust.

One of the best books I have ever read on creating a team, is The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams by Patrick Lencioni. It is a must-read for everyone who works in a team, leads a team or aspires to work in or lead a team. Yes, basically everyone, except hermits.

The trust needed ultimately comes back to the goal. Everyone on the team must understand that whatever idea is presented, it is done with the intention of reaching the goal. And that presenting an idea will never place them in a position of ridicule, but instead, the idea is highly valued no matter how wrong it may seem. This is perhaps the most important aspect of getting people to share.

As a leader, this means you never make fun of people’s ideas, never raise your voice because you think an idea is stupid, and definitely never take a shared idea as a personal attack. Because if you do, that sets an example for the rest of the team and trust will fade faster than an ice cream on a hot sunny day.

Kill your own ideas

If you are a team-leader, you will have to set an example. Not only by refraining from the negative, but also by showing the positive. One very good way to do this, is to go first with presenting an idea that won’t completely solve the problem, but gets people thinking. And then killing it, saying “Okay, that will never work. Can anyone else come up with another solution?”.

Do this frequently. Make sure you show your team that it is good to offer any idea, and that any idea can be dismissed, no matter who it came from. Keep doing this until you hit that one idea that simply nails it. You’ll know, because everyone agrees it’s the best way to do it.

Creativity is a process

Any solution is always just a step towards a goal. In one of my first blog posts, A guide from complexity to simplicity, I discuss exactly this attitude. It doesn’t matter if a decision you make turns out to be a step in the wrong direction. Just trace back your steps, and take a different approach.

If you want creativity to succeed, you will have to be open to the process of iterative improvement. That means sometimes you’ll find out something doesn’t work (anymore). Don’t get discouraged. A team that’s built on trust, is creative, and is willing to view everything as a prototype, will ultimately come up with a solution that is far superior to anything you can otherwise come up with.

Every year I get the CIO Survey by Harvey Nash / KPMG. While the full report isn’t available until June 26th, some of the key findings are. In my opinion, of all the key findings, one in particular stands out. The immense skills shortage.

Skills shortage

The CIO Survey is conducted amongst about 4,000 IT leaders worldwide. Therefore, it gives a very adequate overview of the current state of businesses around the globe.

And while there are many interesting facts every year, the skills shortage is one that has been steadily growing over the past years. This year, 65% of all respondents claimed to have a problem with finding the right IT skills. This is the highest it has been since 2008, which is very alarming indeed.

The result of not being able to find the right skills leads to difficulties implementing a company’s digital strategy. It is therefore no surprise that 78% of all respondents said their digital strategy is only moderately effective, or worse.

Especially taking into consideration the fact that failing to correctly implement a good digital strategy is one of the main reasons companies fail to compete nowadays.

Let go of the faster horse

I believe that companies should actively look for different ways to solve the problem. Many are still trying to find more specialists, where there are none.

While it is tempting to think that we can get everyone to code, the simple fact is that it takes a certain profile to like coding. Just like it isn’t for everyone to be on stage presenting to a large audience, coding and other technical skills simply aren’t for everyone.

Taking this into account, managers should actively search for different kinds of solutions. Henry Ford famously said that people think they want a faster horse, while they really want easy transportation. In IT we should stop looking for that faster horse and instead find other ways to reach our goal.

One way is to look for solutions that actually allow a different type of person to create the software you need, for example. Tools are quickly becoming available that allow business creatives to implement their solutions themselves, instead of relying on skilled technical staff.

This alleviates the pressure to find more skilled people and at the same time increases the effectiveness of the company. A true win-win situation, that only requires managers to think out of the box.

With the skills shortage as high as it is now, companies simply cannot afford to keep looking for more and faster horses. They need to find cars.

In my other blog, I told you about the need to acknowledge your boundaries before pushing them. Being new to the world of IT, I’ve experienced that it’s better to tell coworkers when you require more time or help.

A platform like Triggre is created to be used by everyone, so if you’re willing to learn, you’ll figure it out. In this blog, I’d like to elaborate on that.

Finding answers to questions: what’s the right approach?

Learning step by step is key. Admittedly, this is easier for some than others. But if you show your coworkers that you want to learn from them, they will understand and help you. Everyone has their own field of expertise.

Sit down with an IT expert to talk about the difficult technical things, ask a superior for feedback on your work or attend a meeting with a sales representative. If you do this from time to time, you will book progress quicker than you think. On the other hand, you should tread carefully to find the right balance when asking questions.

Let me tell you briefly about a company that I used to work for. In the customer service department, people were answering questions of customers all day long.

New employees didn’t have most answers right at hand, so the company had set up a large database containing common questions and answers. The database was easy to use and provided the right answers quickly.

However, some employees skipped the independent searching part and constantly interrupted their coworkers to ask for the right answers. Others couldn’t bring themselves to admit they didn’t know something, so they just guessed, which often resulted in the provision of dramatically wrong information.

My point is that if you have resources available that will help you and get you further without having to bother coworkers, always use them first. This way, you show everyone that you’re actively trying to learn and can work independently.

If you still don’t know the answer afterwards, don’t fret and ask your coworkers! If you show a good personal work ethic, no one will refuse to help you.

How about Triggre?

Triggre is made for people who don’t possess any technical knowledge. However, it is important to realize that no tool is a magical box that will work if you are not open to learning new things.

Triggre is a toolkit that you (and everyone else) can use if you are able to gain the right skills – which is by no means difficult. It only requires a healthy dose of inquisitiveness!

The number of big companies that filed for bankruptcy has increased with 22% worldwide in 2017. Big companies in this case, means those that have a turnover of more than 50 million. The total turnover of these 321 companies was 104 billion Euro. And this year, a further increase of 8% is expected.

The cause

Apart from sector specific causes, there is a bigger main cause: technological change keeps accelerating. Companies that have a hard time adapting to technological changes face a much higher chance of going bankrupt within the next few years.

What makes this situation even more problematic is the low interest rate. Many companies have taken on loans against very low interest rates. But if these loans aren’t being invested in the right business models, it will be extremely unlikely that these loans can ever be paid back.

Big companies have a tendency to focus on the short term, for example to please shareholders. Investing money in innovation can often lead to a temporary setback, which is hard to sell to shareholders.

Innovation is a mindset

In my opinion, companies should adopt an innovative mindset. That doesn’t mean that they should strive to be the next Tesla, or venture into research they don’t understand.

What they should do is the opposite of what they often do now: sit back and enjoy the revenue stream of their products or services. And that means companies should look for ways to improve.

Improve on products, services, internal processes. Everything. And that improvement only needs to be 1% per day. If a company can improve just 1% per day, whether it is on revenue, customer experience or efficiency, that company makes a giant leap every single year.

But more importantly, when people are taught to work with the mindset of finding improvement everywhere, they will actually start seeing these opportunities. The problem isn’t that the companies that went bankrupt last year didn’t have the opportunity to improve, it’s that they didn’t see it.

My first job in the IT-world started a few months ago. It is intense to start something completely new after just graduating, since finding your way in a new industry takes a lot of time and energy.

I learned more things in a few months at Triggre than I was used to from school. That can either be the best or the worst experience – depending on how you deal with it.

Recently, I had my first face-to-face meeting with a client looking for software solutions. He was an employee in his mid-fifties who told us that he was solely responsible for implementing automatization in the company.

He had to look like the go-to person for the job, but I quickly noticed that he had second-to-no experience regarding software creation – and I recognized his situation immediately.

He was dealing with a subject that he was supposed to know every little thing about. But learning software takes time and he just wasn’t ready yet, which made him super uncomfortable.

First steps in the world of IT

The meeting made me reflect on the issue of being new to the ‘software business.’ I have a marketing background, which I can apply to a variety of situations, but this is my first IT-related job. I’ve quickly come to understand that it’s a world with laws and rules of its own, and you need to familiarize yourself with it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a fresh graduate or a seasoned professional with decades of work experience. It’s important to accept the fact that there are certain things you are not capable of doing yet.

However, many people find it difficult to admit that. This can result in distressing predicaments, because they feel forced to accept projects they simply cannot handle. In the end, no one will benefit from a non-transparent attitude.

Ultimately, you’re creating a very non-pleasant work situation for yourself in which you are constantly frustrated and under pressure.

Solution: acknowledge and learn!

So what is a constructive solution? In my opinion, the key is to embrace your lack of knowledge as well as the drive to learn.

Platforms like Triggre are made to be used by everyone, so if you’re willing to learn, you will figure it out.

And if you need more help, just ask. I’ve experienced that it’s better to tell co-workers you require more time or help, since you show them you’re willing to learn and acquire the right skills. In my next blog, I will elaborate on this solution in more detail!

Many schools use student information systems, and have been for a long time. They store grades and other information digitally. And that is a good thing, as it makes access to these data much easier. However, as I discussed before, such technology also has a downside.

Easy access

While easy access to data can be great, the question is: access for who? In the case of student information systems, this question was never asked. It was simply assumed that access was a good thing.

Since the introduction of the first student information systems, smart phones have made their introduction. Nowadays almost everyone has a smart phone – including parents.

So logical step for student information system suppliers were mobile apps. With these apps parents have easy access to the student information about their children, such as grades and attendance.

By law parents are allowed to see such information, but only until their children reach the age of 16. After that, children need to give consent to their parents to access this information. After the age of 18, parents are not allowed to see this information at all.

Student information system suppliers however, provide information to parents without any consent ever given by students themselves.

Joyless

And while this is strictly a legal issue, there is a more important factor to consider. One parent said that such access takes away a particular kind of joy from the student.

Imagine the student getting a really good grade. If the parent immediately knows this grade, because they receive a push notification, the student is robbed of being able to come home and telling their parents about their grade.

Even with bad grades, shouldn’t it be up to the students to decide when to tell their parents? Isn’t that part of growing up? And shouldn’t student information system suppliers know this, and even support this process?

The goal

I believe this is a perfect example of taking digitization too far. While the technology is there, it doesn’t have to be used. If the goal of parents is to raise their children to be responsible adults, using technology to effectively spy on their children teaches the wrong lesson.

This is something that happens too often. Companies do not fully understand the goal at play. They cater to the needs of their customers, while often the true goal lies one step further.

In the case of student information systems, the goal is not the school or the parent, but teaching the student – that’s the real goal.

In many companies, organizational departments are separated. As a result, marketing employees, for example, never come anywhere near the ICT division, and vice versa. In such organizations, it is generally assumed that software development is too difficult to engage with, anyway.

However, this gap is unnecessary and it’s a shame that it still exists so widely. Because if companies manage to bridge it, they unlock a wealth of opportunities, making software creation easier, more accessible, and more fun.

Outside the box, into a broader realm

A little outside-the-box thinking can go a long way. First and foremost, companies should stop pigeonholing. Considering the inquisitive, exploratory mindset of millennials, restricting employees to a rigidly defined task list is outdated.

Most people possess a skillset that stretches beyond it, and although they don’t necessarily need to put it to use, it’s important to allow them to think and act broadly. In terms of software development, creating a company culture that encourages non-IT employees to delve into the subject makes it less scary and therefore more accessible.

Once you involve people in IT-related matters, they will have the courage to take subsequent steps. Don’t throw them into complex coding languages. Simply show them that there are more possibilities than they think – for those without a technical background as well.

Building bridges (and applications) with the right tool

Of course, bridging the gap between departments requires the right tool. Although creating software is often presented or referred to as an arduous endeavor, it doesn’t have to be.

Triggre, for example, gives you the opportunity to make software without the hassle: you can build your own application quickly and easily, experimenting with new ideas along the way – regardless of whether you’re a marketing employee or a business manager. If you want to make an adjustment later on, you don’t have to call the IT department, as you can conveniently do it yourself.

In other words, the right tool can work wonders: it makes the traditionally complex field of software development approachable and fun to virtually everyone!

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.