37 signals, the seven person start up from Chicago that has gown a web application business with more than one million users released a book, Getting Real, which sums up their development philosophy, which should scare the hell out of large businesses everywhere. Why? Because many of them are so enamored of the paper trail they are producing that in essence that 500 page ‘planning’ and functional requirements documents they produce quickly become the only product that they can ship. We even have a new word for this cottage industry that has grown up around the idea of reorganization, right sizing, and certifications of certifications (read CMMI), it’s called consulting. You know it’s time to call one when you realize that you have become just too large to ‘get real’, however, when you do finally make the call instead of getting the advice that you could have found in this handy book (http://gettingreal.37signals.com/toc.php), for free, you pay just to learn that you will need even more certifications, paper titles, and other ‘credentials’.
Fortunately, these companies competitors are out there innovating and will soon surpass them with products that people really want to use, that solve real problems, and isn’t that what this is all about, having fun coding, and solving real problems? I have seen this over and over again, instead of getting things done they spend time talking about how to do things, and my personal favorite, worrying about what could go wrong. It is often said that it is better to have made the wrong choices than no choices at all.
The web moves too fast to second guess. Problems that seemed insurmountable just 25 years ago can be solved in minutes using a desktop computer today, the intersection of fast network connections, cheap storage and processing costs, and the movement of applications from the desktop to the web produce the perfect storm for companies that can remember when disk space cost $75 dollars a megabyte, and you could get a hole puncher and double your floppy disk drive capacity (instantly like magic).
Traditional roadblocks have been torn down and time to market in many traditional business models have been slashed, entry barriers have been brought down to the point where a couple of people and a laptop can effectively change an industry. One by one industries that have largely relied on such protections are falling, the last frontier are those that are heavily regulated.