Business applications are a product, you are an engineer, and this is your call to action
Businesses tend to grow faster than their internal systems can keep pace. I’ve seen it happen so many times in my 20 years in tech that I’ve named the issue that arises—tech debt paralysis.
It begins when a team selects business applications that suit them. They give those apps little long-term thought. Who knows where the company will be in two years? But then they succeed and hire rapidly. Everyone learns those applications. The systems solidify into an immovable foundation.
By the time professional business applications managers inherit things, they are faced with a choice: Deplatform their core systems at great cost or suck it up and make do. Many make do. The result is the company is consumed by integrations and paralyzed by inefficiencies. Human error creeps in. Deals lengthen. Workarounds beget more workarounds. Problems take longer and longer to untangle. It compounds until a single administrator spends nine months trying to figure out whether a change will break Salesforce and NetSuite—and holds up the entire revenue apparatus.
Tech debt paralysis only worsens with time. Invariably, that company’s newer, leaner competitors choose better business applications and quickly eat into their market share. So goes the cycle of disruption. Until now.
In this article, I share how I believe we have finally created the tools necessary to help more of those companies break that cycle, and why it starts with thinking of yourself differently.
(And if that idea is interesting, you might also read The Business Engineer’s Code.)
Your business applications are a product
I’d encourage you to think of your business applications as a “product” upon which your entire business runs. As that product goes, so goes the entire business.
If the product is fast and efficient, the company can respond quickly, launch offerings, and turn demand into cash. If the product is slow, those systems restrict all these efforts by a thousand slowly accruing, time-stealing workarounds and customizations. You can’t always know how efficient a company’s business applications are. But I assert that you can always see the results in their revenue and their rate of innovation.
Most companies neglect their internal applications and find, often too late, that it affects everything. Your internal state becomes your fate.
And here’s the kicker. This issue is present in degrees within every company. Every business is built on the sediment of years or decades of compromises made under duress or with imperfect knowledge. The result is a business where every employee does their work a little less efficiently each day, and it compounds. Every department falls further behind until paralysis sets in.
If your leadership truly understood the extent to which business applications enable or limit the entire company’s progress, they’d pay more attention. They’d see your team as the fulcrum with which to enliven the entire business, and to free it to compete.
This is also why Gil, Benny, and I started the company we did. Salto provides the tools, frameworks, and insights needed to make the first big step toward making this case for yourself—and that step is getting all your business systems to speak one language.
The power of code, the speed of no-code
I’ll put a stake in the ground and say that I believe we have an answer to understanding, adjusting, and unifying your many business applications. And that answer is code … sort of.
It’s not a particular coding language, but a human-readable one designed to extract all the configurations from all those systems and set them together on one screen.
Because it’s human-readable, anyone can interpret it. Because anyone can interpret it, anyone can participate in understanding and improving business applications. Many people can branch, edit, and merge changes. And once all your most important back-office applications all speak this language, you can begin to improve it all as one product.
This may seem like a small shift, but the effects are profound. It makes all your systems comparable and interoperable.
- For the first time, you can align NetSuite and Salesforce. Suddenly, adding new systems isn't a challenge. Nor is managing old ones. All the methodologies perfected in software development can be brought to bear.
- If all your systems are represented in one consistent interface, you can “search and replace” settings that might have been hidden in the native interface. You can “copy paste” compliance configurations from one environment to the next. You can launch and manage pre-production testing, version-control, and rollbacks. You can branch, commit, and merge, and allow what’s never been permissible before—thousands of business systems people across an enterprise work productively in parallel.
- You can continuously deploy, integrate, and react, not at the speed of your backlog, but at the speed of software. And it’s not just you who can fix things—it’s everyone. Thanks to versioning, branching, and code management tools, thousands of people can suggest and agree on fixes.
The power of code is that it can see and address everything, and it’s consistent across applications. And within an interface like Salto, where it’s all human-readable, you get an interface that provides the simplicity and accessibility of no-code.
It’s the power of code, made usable by more people on the team. And that’s what gives you the power to design the business.
Creating agile, tech debt-free companies
With a platform like Salto, you can do something no business facing tech debt paralysis has ever been able to do: understand how all business applications actually work, control them, and fight back tech debt.
If you can control these applications, you can engineer them. And if you engineer them, you can improve them and break the cycle which says that your business’ “product” must decay with time. Yours can improve. But that requires you to step out of the reactive role of responding to requests into being a full-fledged proactive business engineer.
We believe those tools and this approach are the nucleus of a new movement called “business engineering” that gives you full right to demand a seat at the table in strategic company decisions. Because if your company’s success is a function of your internal organization, and everyone is riding on that, you’d better get the business applications right.
For that to happen, every company needs to recognize three things: business applications are a product, you are an engineer, and now is the time for you to step up and start engineering.