Creativity vs. Automation

Philip Morgan

List member Tom sent me this really interesting article, and I'd like to share it with you.*Dqb515eV4-W_o6A2Bj56dw.jpegHere's the article:'s this idea of a "value chain" in business. Wikipedia defines it thusly:_Products pass through a chain of activities in order, and at each activity the product gains some value. The chain of activities gives the products more added value than the sum of added values of all activities._Chances are, you work somewhere within a value chain of some kind.The TL;DR of that hackernoon article is that some parts of almost any value chain get automated. Hell, many of you have made money creating that automation!My concern is when the automaters themselves get automated out of a job. This happens through:

  1. Standardization: Coding best practices reduce the need for critical thinking and difficult problem solving
  2. Off the shelf-ization: Libraries and frameworks reduce the need for custom code for utility functions
  3. Automation: Remember how Microsoft Frontpage allowed people with no HTML/CSS coding skills at all build websites? This was an early example of automation that reduced the need for a certain type of coding skill. Yeah, the automated code it produced was horrible for a human to parse, maintain, or upgrade, but from a business perspective, sort of good enough is often functionally indistinguishable from artisanal, hand-crafted perfection and, if there's a cost difference, guess which one wins?

So that leaves the question, where does the difference between sort of good enough and artisanal, hand-crafted perfection matter enough for clients to happily pay the premium for your involvement?I'm constantly making the case that you find this premium when you combine a background in software development with an interest in moving the needle for a business. You do this by moving from 100% developer to 70% developer, 30% business consultant (or perhaps beyond that!). That does not entail any formal business education at all! It just means you start to care about how custom software can improve your client's condition outside the scope of the code itself. It does not require you to wear a suit, and anyone who can write an XML parser is more than intellectually capable of doing it.You start asking questions like:How does it effect the people who use it? What new opportunities could it create for your client? How does the businesses C-level leadership think about the investment in custom software?If you start to sincerely ask those kind of questions, you get drawn in some very interesting and profitable directions.Every year in the last 2 weeks of December, I run a sale on my products. Use the coupon code TAXWRITEOFF to get 30% off my products:

Again, use the coupon code TAXWRITEOFF when you check out and you'll get 30% off the price of any product. This offer expires at midnight Pacific time on December 31st, so don't wait!-P

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