Normal people can and will innovate of their own initiatives if enabling conditions are present.

–A. Van de Ven, The Innovation Journey


Are you a Salesforce admin? Start process-driven application building.

The reason big new things sneak by incumbents is that the next big thing always starts out being dismissed as a “toy.”  This is one of the main insights of Clay Christensen’s “disruptive technology” theory, which observes that when a new product or service is introduced, it is dismissed as a toy because when it is first launched it undershoots user needs, but then tends to get better at a faster rate than users’ needs increase. How mainframe companies viewed the PC, or Kodak viewed digital cameras are obvious examples.


There is always great skepticism (admittedly justified, for the most part), especially on the part of IT, about whether end users are capable of developing their own applications beyond some spreadsheets and Access databases.

But this time it’s different. We have reached the perfect storm of conditions that will transform the landscape for end user application development.


Lowering the barrier

Given an appropriate set of tools and services, technically savvy business users can build situational processs by themselves.

–  Mike Rollings (Gartner), Citizen Development: Reinventing the Shadows of IT  


Lowering the barrier to building solutions will make more people programmers – but not in the traditional sense. You could say there are now fewer typists and switchboard operators than there were in the ’80s. Technically, that’s true, but it misses the bigger picture.

Nowadays, we’re all “typists” and “switchboard operators” to some degree – but our new tools and what they make available have opened up tremendous new possibilities. The same is true of software solution building. Consider drones.


A Typist


A drone “pilot” needs many fewer qualifications to operate a drone than a pilot has to fly a jet. Yet a drone today can accomplish much of what a fighter jet can accomplish – with much less training and a lot less effort. How? By dramatically simplifying what the person has to do to accomplish an objective.


Managing Repetitive Projects on Salesforce
Cinque Terre


Drone technicians are never going to become fighter jet pilots. Just because they can take off and land, do aerial surveillance and fire a missile doesn’t mean they are capable of becoming jet pilots. The whole point is that, given the right tools, the drone technician doesn’t ever have to become a pilot in order to achieve a significant sub-set of the functionality required by an experienced pilot.


A Pilot


Interestingly enough, jet pilots are unlikely to become drone technicians either – the air force has found they have much better success when they take someone “off the street” and train them to pilot drones. Which makes sense – the technicians want as much done for them as possible, while the jet pilots are used to having complete control. It’s not easy to make the switch. That’s why a Java programmer is unlikely to start building a smart process-driven application.


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