Software ate the world

Series: delightful products, data sci February 14, 2017

It’s been over five years since Marc Andreessen proclaimed that “software is eating the world”. And he was right. Every person I talk to is using software in their job.

When software started eating the world, there was low-hanging fruit. All the paper was removed. Even recreational sports leagues stopped being managed via phone calls and legal paper and started moving to the cloud.

A touted approach for finding software product ideas was taking an Excel sheet that was emailed back and forth and turning it into a SaaS product.

And this progress was, for the most part, great.

But it’s been five years.

The stuff that was easy to turn into software has been, well, turned into software. What remains is the hard stuff. The hard stuff needs expert, tacit knowledge.

While the current wave of software can make us more efficient, it struggles to make us more effective.

Fifteen years ago, a manager was delighted to have electronic tool to track project status. And five years ago, they were delighted by a beautiful interface and powerful reports they could create. But now, to delight them we need software that anticipates a scheduling bottleneck before the manager even thinks about it.

Beautiful, functional products are now table stakes. Customers want predictions, insights, and recommendations.

Software ate the world because it provided value and solved problems. If we want software to keep providing more value and solving more problems, we have to shift toward building things that bring expert knowledge into our products.

And for that, we need machine learning.

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