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How enterprises can compete with startups

Today a lot of attention goes to the startups. It seems everyone are looking towards them for shaping the future which leaves big enterprises neglected.

While it’s true that enterprises move slower and aren’t as agile as startups, that doesn’t mean we should write them out of the race. Google, Facebook, IBM and even Microsoft are just a few of he big tech enterprises which are constantly working on big moonshots. Cisco for example also had a chief futurist. It’s what the companies will do in the future that will make them or break them.

Quite a few enterprises are trying to shake things up both on their respective markets and in their internal structure. Some of them are trying to bring a more startup-like culture of smaller teams and more agile structure. It’s difficult to find the right balance, though. Startups are small for a reason. When things scale up,  the classic lean startup often is not the right choice to keep the momentum.

But, by the same token, a full on cold corporate build is also not the way to go in the digital era where things are a lot more fluid. “Over the past 20 years, IT has been set up for efficiency, cost reduction and doing things as safely as possible,” says Benjamin Wootton, co-founder of Contino to ComputerWeekly. This type of structure is not really that great for being fast and answering to the market and customer demands. Wootton adds that most enterprises try to avoid risk even if it means changing to a newer and better practice.

Software DevOps

So, how to change that? In an ideal case the enterprise would manage to find the balance between taking the best from startups and mixing it up with the best from the scaled up corporate structure. One way to do this is with software development. Today many companies which have little to do with IT actually set up their own software developing teams. This allows them to build specific enterprise software for their needs. And they can also do it faster with less resources.  “You want to deliver quickly and at pace, which means having a clear strategy about what things are not important for the product”, Kingsley Davis, a partner at Underscore Consulting says.

In the end of the day both startups and enterprises aim for the same. They want to capture as much of their markets as possible and deliver the best possible products and services. “Business users are driving software development,” says Frank Ketelaars, big data technical leader for Europe at IBM. He recommends using analytics and machine learning capabilities. The tools for this are already out there, like Apache Spark for example. Also, don’t forget context of the data. “Deep learning is here, but one thing that is missing is context. You have to start thinking about what data you have to control the behavior of your application,” he says.

Make the right tools

Being agile is also about being productive. What programming languages and platforms do your software developers use? Sure, they get the job done, but are they easy enough to work with? Are they fast? Most companies go for the tried and tested options, but Phil Trelford, founding member of #F Foundation sees better sense in “precision tools”. Also, software tools which help teams make these precision tools for specific cases.  It could be a bit difficult at first while you create them, but then everyone who uses them should feel the benefits. Having proper software tools will make the overall work of the company faster and more efficient.

And companies are already seeing this trend. “Apart from Java, which has huge user groups, the biggest programmer user groups in London are those of the functional programming languages”, Trelford adds. These languages help developers do more with less code. This allows them to experiment more. They can also try to offer new things instead of simply creating code to answer needs that are already there.

Software is key

“Companies that regard software as a driver for them are the ones that will win. One of the pieces of advice I give to company boards is that they should not think of software development as a general problem that we can solve by throwing more people at it. Think of software development as a place where you might be surprised what comes out”, says Russ Miles, lead engineer at Atomist.

While this sounds lovely, most enterprises don’t really want to risk such changes. But the experts say it’s worth it. “You might do something crazy like services on your mainframe, but it turns out this may be where you get the biggest return on investment,” he says. For that you would need a skilled team of software developers. Most enterprises already have several of them. It’s only a question of pointing them at the right way or letting them to loosen their imagination and creative juices. Then all you would have to do is simply provide them with the proper tools and trainings. CourseDot can help you out with the latter.