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9 Posts authored by: dturchin

June 2014 ACI.jpgThis month, application creators convened, conversed, and pushed the ACI back to levels not seen since March. The index gained 4.7% during a time when the broader S&P 500 index gained 2.1%.

 

The increase can mostly be attributed to rising stock prices and new investment in cloud platforms. One example is the Apache Foundation's promotion of Stratos, its PaaS environment, to Top-Level Project status. Stratos will struggle to establish an identify distinct from myriad other, similar open source app platforms including OpenStack and CloudStack but that's less significant than the message it sends: app creation and app lifecycle ownership continue to dominate the CIO board room agenda.

 

Endless banter about new data on PaaS adoption from North Bridge Venture Partners also contributed to ACI's increase. It included these compelling stats (sample size: 1,358 respondents): PaaS enterprise adoption will increase to 41% this year while SaaS adoption will grow to 74%.

 

ACI's 4.7% jump in June is impressive since it's one of the quietest months for M&A and industry events. Expect more meandering upward through September then a surge as we enter the last quarter of 2014.

parliament_debate.jpgI finished presenting our roadmap and platform strategy in Milwaukee a few weeks back. We hosted an event before the Brewers-Cubs game at Miller Park. Before I could enjoy my first liquid manna (PSA: please support MillerCoors - excellent ServiceNow customer, fine brews) I got distracted by a group of customers huddled in the corner having an animated conversation. It resembled one of those heated debates in Parliament without the powdered wigs. I arrived just before punches were thrown.

 

  • The topic: how to manage demand from the business for new ServiceNow apps.
  • The debate: how much is too much of a good thing.
  • The context: word got out that IT could replace SharePoint apps and the flood gates opened. Opportunity or problem?

 

I was mesmerized. Inspired. Excited. I felt like Wayne and Garth at an Aerosmith concert. These were my brethren geeking out about the one thing that will re-define the identify of IT.

 

I bit my tongue. I tried to not dominate the conversation. Then when it devolved into third graders sharing baseball cards on the playground I jumped in. We spent the first inning exchanging ideas for apps and demonstrating our wares on smartphones. I must admit Taylor's learning management system for tracking employee training put most of mine to shame.

 

We came to a few conclusions about how best to accommodate demand:

  1. Establish a model for app ownership and support. Before committing to the business, answer these three questions:
    • Who owns the feature backlog?
    • Who takes first-line support calls?
    • What will it cost to deliver the service and who is paying?
  2. Require a dedicated business sponsor from the line of business. Develop requirements with the business, in scrum-style sprints where possible, and treat the business sponsor as your product owner. Each story (requirement) must have clear acceptance criteria from the business.
  3. Focus on the end-user experience. Before defining requirements, white board the lifecycle of an interaction from the perspective of the user. Then recruit a power user and have him/her provide feedback during the development process.

 

The Brewers lost. My new friends barely noticed. Taylor and Warren, you're bigger geeks than me. And that's the highest compliment I can pay.

May 2014 ACI.jpgAs a kid, my dad lost me at the San Diego Sockers indoor soccer game. He panicked and assumed the worst. I emerged before kickoff with a ball autographed by the whole team. I had slipped past security and disappeared into the team locker room in search of autographs. So at Knowledge14 last month I had no reservations stopping most attendees at some point during the event to ask them about their custom app exploits.

 

I met Chuck from Wichita on the escalator. He insisted on showing me his app that tracks which time zone each of his team members is in for every standing meeting. Lois from Belgium was wonderful. I interrupted her cocktail on the expo floor. Turns out Lois developed an app that resolves one of life's great conundrums: is there fresh coffee in the break room? She created Foursquare for java (the aromatic kind). Brilliant!

 

Every conversation, every interaction, and every app inspired me and helped me understand how enhancements to our platform are making lives better. Seeing the expression on Chuck's face when I showed him the new Share portal was priceless. He lit up like a Christmas tree and gave me a bone-crushing two-hand shake (I'm told that's midwest for "hug"). Lois got all googly-eyed when I showed her the Service Creator. She said it's exactly what marketing asked for last week.

 

Four amazing, unbelievable, exhausting days reconfirmed my faith in the power of app creation. All of which helped me reconcile the fact that the Application Creation Index (ACI) continued its 2014 decline this month. It's an index that measures the rate of app creation across the industry using a broad set of indicators ranging from Tweets to stock prices to job postings to GitHub projects and Stack Overflow comments contributed by creators. Over time, it should demonstrate the growth of the creator community. Over the past few months falling stock prices for SaaS companies and a lack of major announcements - M&A activity, new product introductions, and high-profile partnerships - have led to month over month declines.

 

The market's fickle. The enthusiasm of creators isn't. I'm confident the ACI will rebound by end of year. For now, the only metric that matters to me is the CLQLI - the Chuck and Lois Quality of Life Index. Based on what I saw and heard at Knowledge14, it's at an all-time high and reaching new peaks every day.

March 2014 ACI.jpgThe Application Creation Index (ACI) swooned in March, dipping 5.2% to close at 96.42. Investors sold off cloud platform favorites like $NOW and $CRM to lock in gains from 2013 and reinvest profits in slow growth sectors like aerospace (+3.0%) and retail (+1.5%). During the same period the broader market indices were up slightly with the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 both gaining nearly 1%.

 

What's required for cloud platform stocks to regain momentum? Based on continued growth in app dev-related job postings and traffic at leading developer communities like Stack Overflow and GitHub, the March decline will correct itself. We'll see more green when investors regain confidence in economic growth and the Fed's bond-buying plans solidify.

 

ACI aside, creators will benefit from announcements in March including Google drastically reducing the cost of its cloud infrastructure services and Cisco's billion dollar bet on cloud app dev. Additionally, Box CEO Aaron Levie dropped an L-bomb with the proclamation that cloud storage will soon be free. He did that amid a flurry of announcements at the company's first Levie comedy hour, er, Box platform developer day. I attended it along with 1,000 of my closest socially awkward friends and have since joined the Levie fan club. Google "Mikkel Svane" and "back hair" to see why.

developer.jpegThat's not a religious question. Or a philosophical or metaphysical one. It's one I asked myself expecting the answer to be a Google or Quora search away. The closer I got to an answer the more I realized it's the wrong question. We're all creators now. In an age when everything's a platform, everyone's a creator.

 

My six year old Dara's a creator who uses Scratch to animate ballerinas. My ninety-three year old grandma's a creator who develops (adorable) photo journals on Snapfish. IDC says there are 18.5 million developers based on census data from 90 countries but that's like saying there are three million trout in the world because that's how many were caught last weekend in Lake Michigan. Others claim that number is anywhere from 10 to 100 million but who cares…they're all hopelessly wrong.

 

It's time we redefine "developer" for the modern era of content creation. It must include anyone who publishes anything that's consumed in an app. It's time we call them what they are: creators. Creators don't all hang out on GitHub and read Stack Overflow. Creators don't all write JavaScript or even shell scripts. Heck, most think Ubuntu has fins and lives in Loch Ness. And yet, they create the world's most engaging content and their creations generate more page views than Snapchat or Instagram or Pinterest ever will.

 

The cult of apps began six years ago with the launch of the App Store. Yet today, it's still painful for non-programmers to create cross-platform apps for all three screens, ones that work offline, support push notifications, self-monitor and self-heal. The sooner we shed perceptions about who creates applications the sooner we'll develop tools that serve their needs.

 

A quick survey of what's getting funded in Silicon Valley confirms it: we'll see more innovation in app dev over the next five years than we've seen in the previous thirty. Expect platforms designed for and by creators. Expect lines between dev and ops to continue to blur and expect cloud infrastructure provisioning and auto-scaling to become transparent. Compute resources and storage will soon be utility-reliable and Facebook-accessible like electricity or plumbing.

 

The key takeaway for creators: keep creating. Keep focusing on delightful user experiences and compelling content. We GitHub literati learn slowly... but finally understand you're the new boss.

 

Grandma: I expect big things!

Application Creation Index (ACI) gains 1.68% in February. Leading indicators portend weak 2014.

 

Stephen Wolfram is a deity in computing circles. He's the Oxford-trained British scientist who wrote a Physics dictionary at age 12 and later developed the magnum opus of academic Math programs Mathematica before authoring the controversial and acclaimed book A New Kind of Science. His more recent

stephen_wolfram.jpeg

work led to the natural language processing (NLP) search engine WolframAlpha which powers Siri and Bing among others.

 

All of that and Stephen's biggest contribution is yet to be revealed: the Wolfram Language, a new approach to developing software that lets creators think like people. The days of cursed, bleary-eyed keyboard slaves wrestling with semicolons and curly brackets may soon end. In Wolfram Language, for instance, to add data to your app that, say, does a lookup related to the taxonomy of fish, you might just add "fish taxonomy" to your code and the language will sherpa the data into memory. Stephen Wolfram, we raise a (warm) pint to you!

 

Improving the experience for application creators requires reducing the gap between inspiration and innovation. We're doing our best to spearhead the transformation with tools like the App Creator but, more important, by changing expectations about who can create and what training they need. This month's Application Creation Index (ACI) is a reminder that we're ignoring the real problem: improving the user experience by improving the creator experience.

 

Case in point: the largest technology companies on the planet are tripping over themselves to arm the world's 20 million developers with tools for building and big iron for hosting apps in the cloud. Trouble is, they're doing it all wrong.

 

This month, IBM launched BlueMix to make its Frankenstack of apps available on its newly-acquired SoftLayer cloud infrastructure. Yawn. Microsoft is converging its Azure PaaS and IaaS services by adding configurable services to VM clusters. Ugh.

ACI February 2014.png

 

My friend Lenore in Toronto could care less. She's not measured by how many services her VMs consume or how many cores are in her CPU. She's measured by one metric only: business value. She's too busy trying to improve the accuracy of payroll processing and uptime for Exchange to care about any of the distractions cloud vendors promote as "innovation".

 

Which brings us back to the ACI. In February, it gained 1.68% to close at 101.68. A slight increase in app dev job postings coupled with headline-grabbers like IBM's BlueMix announcement led to the increase yet the index was outperformed by the NASDAQ which gained 2.20% during the same period. I predict anemic gains until we as an industry galvanize creators around something simpler, something profoundly different, something human. Stephen Wolfram, call me!

marketing_events_large.jpgLenore isn't your typical VP of IT. She's a programmer at heart with degrees in Math and Computer Science and a deep disdain for groupthink. She's fluent in three languages, loves strong coffee and adventure travel. Her saint bernard Shep is taller than my six year old. We met last week in Toronto and hit it off like old friends.

 

Lenore has a young team and an aging Service Management system. She introduced me to Thad, a long-hair from the help desk with the state of Missouri tattooed on his forearm. I watched over his shoulder as he entered tickets. He looked as comfortable as a fish in a net. He scowled at the monitor and asked poignant questions like "why does it take seven seconds to set caller location? Dude hasn't moved in a decade!" I'd slit both wrists before swapping roles with Thad. It shouldn't be that hard. Lenore agreed.

 

Senior management gave her the Heisman when she introduced the organization to a modern IT platform. Thad nearly quit. Lenore coaxed him back. She had a plan.

 

Turns out the marketing department needed to replace a Lotus Notes app used to manage events. It was written in Visual Basic in 1997 and looked like a green-screen version of Pac-Man. Georgio, event coordinator, told me "nobody uses it but management pretends we do. We mostly use sticky notes." Lenore saw an opportunity and asked the VP if her team could replace it with an alternative to Notes (both the Lotus and the sticky kind).

 

Three days later they previewed a new events app developed in ServiceNow with a few simple forms, an Exchange integration for the marketing calendar, an Access integration for venue lookups, an SLA timer, interactive calendar, and Gantt chart. Three days after that Lenore received a bouquet with a hand-written note from the VP of Marketing: "These are for the next three apps I need you to build. My team's productivity just tripled and you saved me $300k on custom development. Thanks!"

 

Lenore took the note to the Infrastructure Management team that rejected her initial attempt at modernizing ITSM. This time they gave her an hour at the next IT all-hands to demo the events app. She did that... then had Thad show a side-by-side comparison of closing a help desk ticket in ServiceNow vs. the legacy HP system.

 

In less time than it took to log a call with HP Thad showed how he could create knowledge, update stakeholders on a watchlist, post a solution to the company's Live Feed, and propose a change to a CI that alerted the service owner. He then responded to a cynical question about benchmarking data by creating a custom KPI and adding it to a CIO dashboard. COBOL programmers in the audience rocked in fetal position. Everyone else gave Thad a standing ovation.

 

That was last year. They now use ServiceNow for Service Level Management, Service Catalog, and IT GRC. Lenore and Thad love work more than ever. And her journey is just beginning.

This isn't 1972. Stop adding "...Gate" to anything vaguely scandalous. Nor is it 1978 and we're not in Jonestown. Stop drinking (laced) Kool-Aid.

 

We're equally guilty of language apathy in the enterprise software community. My biggest pet peeve is how we give good ideas marketable names then overuse them until they mean nothing. Case in point: "DevOps". There's no longer a consistent definition of what it means, when to use it, who it benefits, or how… yet countless Towers of Babel have been funded in the name of it. Two others: "social" (why? when?) and "big data" (how big?). Let's stop bastardizing these to rationalize lazy product design. From the (lengthy!) list, the one that's most bothersome is "mobile-first design".

mobile_infographic_2014.jpeg


MFD? WTF?

 

A decade ago mobile was new, intriguing, misunderstood, and undervalued. A chorus of Statler and Waldorf naysayers threw rotten tomatoes from the balcony because they lacked the vision to see that screen resolution and battery life would improve, touch screens would fix usability, and wireless networks would become stable and ubiquitous. As those changed around 2007, that chorus of boos became a round of applause. By 2010, any software project could be justified as long as it was available on mobile devices.

 

…and that's where the problem started. We got distracted by the mobile euphoria hailstorm and stopped asking basic questions:

  • What's mobile? A device? Network? Lifestyle?
  • Why does it need to be mobile? How can we make it better for disconnected users?
  • What are the use cases? Who are the users? What problems are they solving?

 

It's product design 101 and yet the shiny object called "270,000 iPhones sold in the first 30 hours after launch" provided the veil we needed to hide design-last behind mobile-first. Google reveals the extent to which "mobile-first" has been bludgeoned beyond recognition: 505,000 search results and the first thousand or so are from authors, designers, and vendors preying on under-informed developers, product and project managers.

 

So we overuse and misuse "mobile-first". So what? It's 2014 and, ironically, we need to mature past mobile-first to restore the meaning and impact Luke Wroblewski intended when he coined it in 2009. He was the visionary who first published that "…designing for mobile first not only prepares us for explosive growth and new opportunities, it forces us to focus and enables us to innovate." Right on Jedi Master. Let's channel Luke and remember why mobile is so powerful.

 

Mobile is an essential complement to any well-designed product. At a time when 31% of consumers cite "mobile" as their primary method of accessing the web and there are nearly 6.6 billion mobile subscriptions (...and only 7.1 billion people!), it's redundant to "think mobile first". Heck, in the developed world, there are roughly 1.3 active mobile devices per person and the developing world which suffers from poor fixed infrastructure is gaining ground at a ferocious pace. We live mobile: first, middle, and last.

 

In the words of the CIO of one of our largest customers, "we stopped thinking mobile first… and started thinking mobile always." He volunteered that in a discussion about automating self-service. The conversation was unrelated to mobile yet he felt compelled to address it as part of his overall "Customer First" strategy. There's a reason why their stock price has appreciated 79% since he was hired!

 

"Mobile always" means never compromising the user experience and always adapting function to form. It means small screens don't suffer from limited features. They behave as if they're larger by incorporating contextual information like location and presence that are more valuable when leveraged remote. It means taking inspiration from brilliant apps like Sun and understanding why Color failed.

 

Mobile always means never needing to read a manual. It just works the way it should, the way other apps do, the way users think it should. Mobile first has become overused beyond recognition. Mobile always is the new mobile first.

Marc Andreessen, internet wunderkind of Netscape fame who deserves credit for making web geekery cool, famously claimed in 2011 that "software is eating the world." He cited that in a decade, the cost of delivering internet-scale web services has decreased two orders of magnitude and continues to fall.

 

andreessen.jpeg

The future of technology - no, the future of globalization - is now controlled by a small number of application creators. They define the architectures, interfaces, and experiences that transform industries and define how we relate to the world. At ServiceNow, we celebrate them, connect them, enable them. We're proud of our role and even more proud of their accomplishments.

 

To help quantify the impact they're having, we're re-launching the Index of PaaS Activity (IPA) as the Application Creation Index (ACI). The shift is less a change in name and more a change in philosophy that reflects how customers use our platform.

 

Customers like RedHat, Land O'Lakes, and Tommy Bahama inspire us with stories about how they're fundamentally changing the nature of service delivery by empowering small teams with great app dev tools. The new name recognizes that the value application creators deliver isn't derived from the cloud services they consume but from their innovation - and the value metric for innovation is apps.

 

ACI January 2014.png

We'll calculate the index based on a weighted average of objective industry criteria that track the app dev movement. We'll take into account publicly-available data like stock prices, social media activity, and job postings plus our own data about custom application volume, trends, and usage patterns.

 

The index begins January with a score of 100. It will ebb and flow over time and we'll do our best to explain significant shifts as they happen. We'll always invite feedback, particularly insights that challenge our assumptions and conclusions.

 

In 2013, enterprise software re-emerged as the epicenter of technology innovation. In 2014, as an industry we'll finally acknowledge that application creators deserve the credit. Above all, we realize PaaS is passé, controlled by platform operators tasked with KTLO activities. By contrast, application creation is vibrant, controlled by doers defining the future of enterprise computing.

 

Software is eating the world. And we're hungrier than ever.

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