Technical skill is mastery of complexity; creativity is mastery of simplicity

Not so many years ago we needed to have a degree in computer science and deep understanding of computer languages to make a computer do anything useful. There have been exceptions over the years; the appearance of spreadsheet applications in the last 1980’s opened up computing to a wider group and the wide adoption of easy-to-use word processors has also helped.

Until a few years ago, the computer on your desk did fairly fixed functions – mostly dictated by the IT department. The list was pretty restrictive and control was firmly in the hands of the geeks. Not any more.

With SmartPhone, Tablets, web apps and “software as a service”, the range of stuff that you can do has exploded. Pervasive internet, BYOD and thousands of new apps and providers has also changed the landscape. No longer are you restricted to reading email from Outlook; now you can use your own email applications on different platforms, or even scrap email altogether by using newer collaboration/communication platforms such as Podio, Basecamp and Yammer.

As the IT geeks lose control of this space, we are starting to become more creative:

  • Simplicity. No-one, ever, wants things complicated – we’re driving towards the irreducible core of what we really need. It explains the death of Microsoft and corresponding rise of Apple. Geeks might be comfortable and paid to work with complexity, but the rest of us need to get on with what we actually do.
  • Community and sharing. Traditional lines of information flow in and out of the central core are breaking down as ad-hoc groups of people go and create/glue/integrate applications and services together to create exactly what they want, and not what’s dictated by command and control policy structures.
  • Low cost implementation. Today you can try out the new Mailbox App for free, hell you can even use it totally free forever. The old model required corporate licenses for Outlook that ran into thousands of pounds, took months to roll-out and were frequently years behind current technology.
  • Open source, and the end of bespoke. So many historical applications have re-invented the wheel, many times over, using proprietary technology that locked customers into long term, high capital-cost projects. Open source has changed that, companies and individuals can simply glue together a handful of freely available tools – using scarce budgets on getting the glue and implementation correct and not stressing about developing core (but widely available) functions.
  • Software as a service. The big game changer here is speed of deployment and ease of portability. If it’s easy to deploy then it’s easy to change and that means lower risk trying new stuff out. In turn we see faster turnover of products and services used.

All this revolves around a new thinking, a new approach to the provision of software and services. Make it simple and remove the complexity; the costs tumble, the value goes up and the overall support cost drops close to zero.

Folks can now get back to doing what they’re best at and stop wasting time grappling with evil spreadsheets, horrible email threads and very clunky business systems. We have, in computing terms, become masters of our own destination. Thankfully.

By Martin Dower