Tag Archives: software

Should You Offshore Your Analytics?

There has been much on LinkedIn and Twitter in recent years about the shortfall in analytical resource, for the U.S. and UK especially.

Several years ago, I had the learning experience of attempting to offshore part of my analytics function to India, Bangalore to be precise. It was all very exciting at first, traveling out there and working with the team as they spent some time in the UK. Plus, on paper, offshoring looked like a good idea, to address the peaks and troughs of demand for analysis and modeling.

The offshoring pitch successfully communicated the ease of accessing highly trained Indian graduates at a fraction of UK wages. However, as with all software demos, the experience after purchase was a little different.

I always expected the model to take a while to bed down, and you expect to give any new analysts time to get up to speed with our ways of working. However, after a few months, the cracks began to show. Analysts in India were failing to understand what was required unless individual pieces of work were managed like mini-projects and requirements specified in great detail. There also appeared to be little ability to improvise or deal with “dirty data,” so significant data preparation was still required by my UK team (who were beginning to question the benefit).

Once propensity modeling was attempted, a few months later, it became even more apparent that lack of domain knowledge and rote learning from textbooks caused problems in the real world. Several remedies were tried. Further visits to the UK, upgrading the members of the team to even more qualified analysts (we started with graduates but were now working solely with those who held masters degrees and in some cases PhDs). Even after this, none of my Bangalore team were as able to “think on their feet,” like any of my less qualified analysts in the UK, and there were still not any signs that domain knowledge (about insurance, our business, our customer types, previous insight learned, etc) was being retained.

After 18 months, with a heavy heart (as all those I had worked with in Bangalore sincerely wanted to do the best job they could), I ended this pilot and instead recruited a few more analysts in the UK. Several factors drove the final decision, including:

  1. Erosion on labor arbitrage (the most highly skilled cost more);
  2. Inefficiency (i.e. need for prep and guidance) affecting the UK team;
  3. Cost and effort to comply with data security requirements.

Since that time, I have had a few customer insight leaders suggest that it is worth trying again (nowadays with China, Eastern Europe or South Africa), but I am not convinced. On reflection, my biggest concerns are around the importance of analysts understanding their domain (business/customers) and doing their own data preparation (as so much is learned from exploratory data analysis phase). The “project-ization” of analysis requests does not suit this craft.

So, for me, the answer is no. Do you have any experience of trying this?

Will Workers’ Comp Kill Uber, Lyft, Etc.?

Two lawsuits seeking to define drivers as employees rather than independent contractors could end up forcing ride sharing services like Uber and Lyft to start providing workers’ compensation and other employment benefits to their drivers around the country. Separate lawsuits (filed by the same attorneys) in U.S. district court in San Francisco are seeking class action status to represent Uber and Lyft drivers nationwide. The suits are using California’s labor law, because both Uber and Lyft refer to that state’s laws in their driver contracts. Both cases have already earned class action status but only for representing California drivers. Attorneys involved vow an appeal on that decision.

If either suit succeeds, it could be very expensive for the companies targeted. It is hard to tell if the drivers will actually see a benefit. The way class action suits go, drivers could end up reclassified as employees, with a host of new benefits, or the attorneys might take millions while every driver gets a free air freshener; we just won’t know until the suits have played out.

One plaintiff attorney accuses Uber and Lyft of shifting costs, such as fuel and auto insurance, to drivers by classifying them as contractors. If those drivers were employees, Uber and Lyft would have to pay those costs and also provide workers’ comp and other benefits as mandated by law.

The math makes a loss in court look downright disastrous for Uber.  It would instantly shift them overnight from a software company coordinating independent commerce to one of the nation’s largest employers. According to Uber, more than 162,000 drivers completed four or more trips using the service in December. That is 162,000 people who will suddenly have their fuel costs and insurance paid for (both Uber and Lyft currently offer umbrella liability insurance for their drivers) and will need to be offered workers’ comp. That comp won’t be cheap. These guys aren’t exactly desk jockeys. I’m not even getting into payroll taxes, unemployment or the like.

Obviously, a win by the lawyers here would dramatically reshape, and likely end, the budding ride-share revolution. People on the payroll will need to drive far more than four trips in a month, so immediate consolidation will probably ensure a vast swath of that 162,000 will find they no longer drive for Uber. That will result in less availability and slower ride response. In fact, the entire ride-share phenomenon, one based in pure capitalism that brought road warriors clean cars, friendly drivers and prompt service, will be on the edge of extinction. Those cars will be on the same monopolistic path that brought us every rattling, vomit-encrusted cab in America.

Oh joy.

From my experience with Uber, the drivers seem to meet the criteria of true independent contractors. They are their own business. They use their own cars and work when they want to. No central dispatcher directs them to any pick up, and they appear to work for no one except themselves. They do use a central software system that puts them in direct contact with potential customers, but in the end they have complete discretion to accept or decline an available ride request. Uber and Lyft get a percentage of the fare for facilitating the transaction.

In the interest of full disclosure: I have a severe bias against class action suits, which I largely view as nothing more than a wealth redistribution vehicle designed for the enrichment of attorneys. Over the years, I have become party to a few of these, not by anything of my doing other than playing the part of consumer somewhere in America.

One such suit, against my beloved Southwest Airlines, apparently determined that Southwest had violated my rights by an improper roll out of expiration dates on free drink coupons. The result was that, if I would declare that I had flown on a Business Select ticket before a certain date, the settlement entitled me to (wait for it) one free drink coupon. (I didn’t bother, and I didn’t care.) The attorneys who brought the suit were seeking $7 million for their efforts.

In another suit, related to the purchase system set up over the then-new domain extension ”.biz,” attorneys took $2.75 million of the $3 million made available for a settlement in what was determined to be an illegal lottery. My company, which originally spent about $300 for the “chance” to buy WorkersCompensation.biz (we won), didn’t bother filling out the paperwork for our piece of the action, mostly because our time was more valuable than the $3 or so we would have been paid.

If attorneys succeed in having Uber and Lyft drivers declared to be employees, with all the associated rights and entitlements associated therein, they will have killed off one of the most revolutionary and entrepreneurial creations we have seen in the world of ground transportation since, well, the invention of ground transportation.

Workers’ comp would, indeed, kill Uber or, at the very least, the independent spirit with which it sprang to life.

What Microsoft’s Errors Can Teach Us

What would it take to convince people that your business delivers a great customer experience? For tech giant Microsoft, the answer was more than $1 billion.

That’s how much the company reportedly spent on its Windows 8 marketing campaign when the new operating system was launched in 2012. (See, for example, “Microsoft Betting BIG On Cloud With Windows 8 And Tablets,” Forbes, Oct. 11, 2012.)

And how’d that work for them? Not so well. Windows 8 sales were underwhelming at launch, garnering far less market share than Windows 7 at the same point in its release cycle. So, what went wrong?

In a word, it was the experience of using Windows 8. The software was designed to support both touchscreen tablets and traditional desktop PCs, but it handled neither particularly well. Many software reviewers and design gurus found the Windows 8 interface just plain confusing. One even declared that it “smothers usability” (Jakob Nielson of Nielsen Norman Group, Nov. 19, 2012, article titled “Windows 8 — Disappointing Usability for Both Novice and Power Users.”)

But this isn’t a story about the usability of a new software program. It’s a sobering reminder that great, loyalty-enhancing customer experiences — the kind that get people talking and buying — can’t be created with Super Bowl ads, stadium naming rights, public relations blitzes or any type of advertising campaign.

Those marketing instruments may help pique people’s interest in what you have to offer, but it’s the actual interactions they have with your company — the customer experience itself — that will ultimately drive long-term engagement.

Microsoft isn’t the only organization that’s erred in this regard. Many companies, across many sectors, try to use their marketing muscle to win the hearts and minds of consumers. The property/casualty industry spent more than $6 billion on advertising in 2013, according to research firm SNL Financial. And that’s just the carriers. It doesn’t include marketing expenditures by agents and brokers that, albeit smaller in absolute terms, are nonetheless material expenses for many field offices.

Some in the industry would argue that these are necessary expenditures, required elements for raising brand awareness and consideration among one’s target market.

That’s a fair statement, but in reality what often happens is that the marketing of a company’s brand promise gets far more attention than the fulfillment of that brand promise. And it’s that disconnect for customers that will undermine even the most carefully orchestrated branding campaigns, as Microsoft learned.

How can you help your organization avoid this kind of misstep?

Use the three tips below to reconsider what it really means to manage your company’s brand experience:

1. Think about brand in a brand new way.

If the term “brand management” conjures up images of your chief marketing officer or advertising agency, then it’s time to think more broadly. People’s impressions of a company’s brand will be shaped by the totality of interactions they have with the firm.

Granted, some of those interactions will be more influential than others, but they all serve to shape customer perceptions in some fashion.

Companies that cultivate intense customer loyalty recognize the broad array of touch points that compose their brand experience. And they actively manage those touch points to create great, even legendary, brand impressions.

For them, brand is about much more than a billboard, radio spot or TV advertisement. It’s about the end-to-end experience, from pre-sale to post-sale. It’s about their website, their call center, their retail outlets, their customer correspondence, even their billing statements. Every live, electronic or print interaction you can imagine.

Case in point: Amazon.com’s obsession with packaging. The online retailer, perennially rated among the most loved brands in any industry, obsesses over every detail of their brand experience, right through and including the act of opening up the box they send you.

Amazon recognizes that, even if subconsciously, the mere act of opening up a package will necessarily influence customers’ perceptions about the purchase process. And so they’ve tried to make even that as easy as possible by introducing “frustration-free” packaging that eliminates metal twist ties, razor-sharp plastic clamshells and other annoying wonders of modern packaging.

As a result, it isn’t just buying from Amazon that’s effortless (thanks to their patented one-click purchase button), so, too, is opening the package they send you. That’s what end-to-end management of the brand experience looks like in practice.

Think of all the customer interactions that will either reinforce your company’s brand promise or undermine it: coverage quotes, sales proposals, insurance applications, policy contracts, loss control programs, renewal communications, premium audits. The list goes on and on.

No matter what you choose to have your brand stand for — simplicity, expertise, helpfulness, sophistication, expediency or some other attribute — ask yourself if that theme truly permeates your company’s brand experience, and not just its advertising. If it doesn’t, remedy that by better balancing investments in promoting your brand promise with investments in actually fulfilling it.

2. Don’t just say it, prove it.

Talk is cheap when it comes to brand promises.

Any company can claim through its marketing to be something that it isn’t: fast, friendly, knowledgeable, client-focused, easy to do business with. What ultimately matters to customers isn’t what you say but what you do.

The most compelling brand promises are those that are backed up with tangible proof points — things that demonstrate very clearly to customers (or prospects) that your business really walks the talk.

Take Southwest Airlines, a company that aims to make air travel a bit friendlier, fun and hassle-free. Among the proof points: warm, personable staff and no baggage fees.

Or Trader Joe’s, a company that’s sought to make the grocery-shopping experience less overwhelming. (How many varieties of ketchup does the world really need?) Proof point: The company stocks shelves with just a fraction of the number of SKUs carried by competitors, each carefully selected based on target consumer tastes.

Patagonia, a maker of outdoor clothing and gear, has marketed itself as an environmentally responsible company. Proof points: The company uses organic cotton — and even recycled soda bottles– to make clothing and also donate 1% of revenue (sales, not profit) to environmental organizations.

All three companies are beloved by their customers, in part because people know what these organizations stand for and see them delivering on their brand promise in very demonstrable ways.

Does your company’s brand promise pass the “proof point” test?

Consider what your firm has chosen to be famous for, what brand attributes you’ve claimed, and then ask yourself: What could you point to that proves it?

If you’re at a loss to identify some tangible proof points, start creating some. Look at your customer touch points through the lens of your brand promise — coverage quotes, applications, policy documents, correspondence, premium audits, etc. Think about how those touch points could be reshaped (or new ones added) to help bring your brand message to life during routine interactions with customers.

And even if you are able to identify some existing proof points, it’s worth asking: Are you adequately highlighting them in your marketing campaigns? You might be aware they exist, but your customers and prospects might not. Don’t keep them a secret. Follow the lead of companies like Southwest, Trader Joe’s and Patagonia and show the marketplace that your organization’s claim to fame is anything but hollow.

3. Don’t sabotage your sales.

While you can’t advertise your way to a great customer experience, you can at least hope to fill your sales pipeline via those marketing efforts.

But even that marketing investment is pointless if it’s not easy for people to comprehend and buy your products. The purchase experience is an integral part of the customer experience. Sales interactions are as important to shaping your brand as service interactions.

Yet companies often sabotage their sales (and undermine their marketing efforts) by making it difficult for people to buy their products. From poorly staffed retail stores to ill-equipped telephone sales reps to unnavigable websites, businesses erect obstacles that exhaust even the most interested prospects.

BlackBerry, a company that dominated the mobile handset business for years, learned this the hard way as its product portfolio burgeoned and sales process became increasingly complex.

The inflection point came around 2011, when consumers who visited BlackBerry’s website were met with a wall of more than 20 device images– all with confusingly similar names (Bold 9780, Bold 9700, Bold 9650, etc.)– presented on a black screen that made it difficult to even see the devices. Plus, the site offered no “electronic wizard” to help prospective purchasers narrow down the handset selection based on how they intended to use the device.

Contrast that with what visitors to Apple’s iPhone website saw: just three smartphones, presented on a beautiful, bright and transparent background, making it easy to not just discern the devices but to choose the one that best met their needs.

Comparing these two product purchase experiences, is it any wonder that Apple’s handset business thrived while BlackBerry’s stumbled?

Oftentimes, it’s not the best product that wins in the marketplace but rather the one that’s most easily accessible and understandable to the customer. Our brains are wired for the path of least resistance. The more thought and energy required to navigate the purchase process, the more likely it is that people will just abandon the effort — and buy something that’s less taxing on their minds.

Maximize the effectiveness of marketing programs by carefully shaping the customer experience — long before they’re a customer. How easily can prospects navigate your product portfolio? Comprehend product features? Interpret a sales proposal? Get purchase guidance when they need it?

These are the questions you should be asking to create a purchase experience that not only burnishes your brand but also turns more prospects into customers.

No matter what you’re selling, the real battle for people’s hearts and minds isn’t waged on billboards and airwaves. Marketing campaigns may provide air cover, but the hand-to-hand combat of each customer interaction is where true loyalty is forged — the simplicity of your sales process, the usability of your products, the clarity of your communications, the helpfulness of your staff, etc.

So, before you hang your hat on an expensive marketing campaign to convince people how wonderful your product or service is, ask yourself why they need convincing at all.

This article first appeared at Carrier Management.

7 Imperatives for Moving Into the Cloud

For property and casualty insurance carriers, growth is hard-fought in an environment of compressed margins, regulatory scrutiny, increased competition and customer expectations for anywhere/anytime service. Add unsteady economic conditions, low interest rates that decrease investment income and catastrophic losses from significant events such as Hurricane Sandy into the mix, and insurers are finding that their tried-and-true business methodologies that worked well pre-2008 are in desperate need of a facelift. Growth is especially challenging for insurance carriers with inflexible legacy technology systems, as well as small and mid-size carriers that lack the resources to make the product and operational changes they need to remain relevant and profitable.

Insurance carriers must navigate an environment that rewards nimbleness and flexibility, but to do so requires that insurers modernize their current systems and processes. Consider the example of bringing a new product to market. At most insurers, the process may take six months or more, with a price tag reaching seven figures. By the time the product is ready to launch, the dynamics in the market have shifted, or perhaps a new regulation has been legislated. The insurer has two equally unappealing choices: Launch the product as is and never realize a return on investment, or delay launch and retool the product, increasing the R&D price tag and losing potential revenue and market share.

There is a better way: Updating legacy systems with flexible and scalable Software as a Service (SaaS) computing capabilities allows P&C insurers to rapidly capitalize on opportunities and support growth. This article presents seven imperatives for the P&C insurance industry based on industry research and analysis, and outlines how a SaaS implementation can address each imperative.

IMPERATIVE 1: INCREASE SPEED-TO-MARKET 

In an Accenture survey of insurance industry professionals, more than seven of 10 (72%) respondents indicated that it takes their organization six months or more to launch a major product. In today’s constantly changing environment, six months is a long time indeed, and it’s likely that the market looks different than when product development began. However, insurers that are able to rapidly offer innovative products and services through multiple channels can take advantage of shifts in the market and exploit the slowness of competitors. Today, “slow and steady” doesn’t win the race.

Compared with legacy system-based product development, which requires coding, scripting and testing, a SaaS infrastructure by design incorporates more nimble and configurable software, significantly reducing development time and eliminating the cost of hiring a vendor or consultant to make coding changes. In addition, SaaS provides rapid provisioning of live and test environments to further increase speed-to-market. Lastly, SaaS requires minimal investment in hardware, software and personnel. Insurers can use a pre-configured infrastructure to reduce development costs by more than 80% over comparable legacy systems, according to Donald Harrell, senior vice president of marine, exploration and production for Liberty International Underwriters. This, in turn, reduces the risk for product launches.

IMPERATIVE 2: QUICKLY RESPOND TO MARKET AND COMPETITIVE CHANGES

Those insurers not able to turn on a dime may be in trouble because so many of their competitors are preparing to invest in technologies and processes that will help them design, underwrite and distribute products and services more quickly. More than 80% of insurance CEOs are planning to increase investment in technology, and more than 60% plan to develop their capacity for innovation. Innovation must continue after product launch, and SaaS allows insurers to retool products as market drivers dictate.

The ability to revamp an existing product is particularly attractive to small or mid-size insurers launching products to a relatively small target market. With SaaS, insurers are able to bring niche products to market that would otherwise not deliver enough ROI to justify the investment. Likewise, if a product is not profitable, an insurer can make changes and quickly reconfigure the product rather than being forced to offer an unprofitable or marginally profitable product because it’s too costly to make changes.

Insurers can also more effectively price products. SaaS is charged on a subscription or consumption basis, so costs are more closely aligned with the revenue being generated by the new product.

IMPERATIVE 3: REDUCE COSTS TO MAINTAIN PROFITABILITY

As the U.S. economy slowly improves, P&C profitability is starting to improve as well. However, there is little cause for celebration. Fitch Ratings warns insurers that the current pricing cycle may be running out of steam, forcing insurers to cut expense levels to maintain profitability. Now is the time for insurers to put in place cost-saving strategies. With a SaaS infrastructure, insurers can innovate and offer new products and services without incurring capital expenses.

Rather than implement an expensive technology infrastructure, SaaS allows insurers to leverage preconfigured infrastructure and reduce IT resource requirements, staffing and professional services fees. In fact, SaaS up-front costs are typically less than 20% of the development costs of legacy systems. SaaS pricing models have also matured, giving insurers access to a variety of bundled and unbundled pricing options.

IMPERATIVE 4: AUTOMATE AND STREAMLINE UNDERWRITING

A survey of insurance professionals by FirstBest Systems found that 82% of respondents believe that their insurer’s underwriters spend less than half of their time actually underwriting, with the majority of underwriter time spent on data collection and administrative tasks. Insurers understand that giving underwriters the automation tools they need to do their jobs effectively is key to improved underwriting, but many believe that the technology is problematic, with 81% citing lack of data integration as limiting underwriting productivity. In contrast to legacy underwriting systems, SaaS allows insurers to easily incorporate rules to automate the underwriting process and increase underwriting ratios and revenues.

SaaS also allows for streamlined data integration as opposed to off-the-shelf packages that often need extensive modification, thus eliminating a major stumbling block to optimal productivity for underwriters.

IMPERATIVE 5: SUPPORT NEW DELIVERY CHANNELS

Mobile technology continues to be top-of-mind for many carriers, with more than 60% planning to add new mobile capabilities for policyholders and agents. Notes Novarica partner Matthew Josefowicz, “As the use of smartphones and especially tablets displaces the use of desktops and laptops in more areas of personal and professional life, support for these platforms is becoming critical to insurers’ abilities to communicate electronically across the value chain.” The problem for carriers is that legacy systems were not designed to run on mobile devices. However, SaaS, with its more modern coding, is able to provide both a better user interface and operational efficiency for smartphones and tablets. SaaS allows insurers to distribute products through a variety of new channels (e.g., banks, car dealerships) that would not be possible with legacy systems.

Creating and recreating websites and portals quickly and inexpensively means that insurers can more readily compete with “disrupters” that use a direct-to-consumer model. Insurers can design multiple portals for different geographies, languages and associations in near-real time. Deloitte reiterates the importance of mobile and other delivery channels for insurers: “No one can afford to take their distribution systems for granted. More insurers are likely to grow bolder in exploring alternative channels to capture greater market share, catering to the needs and preferences of different segments while cutting frictional costs.”

IMPERATIVE 6: COLLABORATE WITH THIRD PARTIES

Insurers are increasingly relying on third parties for a variety of integration services, including regulatory compliance, sophisticated data analysis, geo-location capabilities for risk assessments and risk ratings for more accurate underwriting and risk pricing. Integration between carrier legacy systems and third-party providers is typically problematic because of proprietary file formats and other issues that make it difficult to share data. In contrast, SaaS provides links to existing interfaces for access to third-party databases. Integration reduces costly, error-prone and time-consuming manual intervention.

IMPERATIVE 7: IMPROVE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE

The majority of insurers (91%) believe that future growth depends on providing a special customer experience, according to Accenture’s survey. However, getting the relevant and up-to-date data they need to give customers a personalized experience is a critical challenge for 95% of respondents.

In the same survey, only 50% of insurers say that their carrier leverages data about customer lifestyles to determine the products and services most likely to meet customer expectations; 70% rate themselves as “average” or “weak” in their ability to tailor products and services to customers’ needs. A similar number (64%) give themselves low ratings for their ability to provide innovative products and services. Poor service — or even average service — is no longer acceptable. Consumers are accustomed to personalized experiences such as shopping on Amazon or booking airline tickets on a travel site, and expect a similar type of experience from their insurer.

Thomas Meyer, managing director of Accenture’s insurance practice, says, “To pursue profitable growth, insurers need to achieve the kind of differentiation that allows organizations like Apple to charge a premium while building customer loyalty. As Apple has shown, the answer is consumer-driven innovation that creates an exceptional user experience.” SasS enables insurers to access the data points they require to differentiate their products throughout the customer experience. In a market commoditized by regulations and related factors, insurers that can leverage SaaS to deliver a straightforward, simple process to customers will give themselves a competitive advantage.

 CONCLUSION

In an accelerated market where change is the new constant, P&C insurance carriers cannot afford to continue to do business as usual. Imperatives such as speed-to market, responsiveness to customer demands, new delivery channels, cost reduction and improved underwriting make it necessary for insurers to explore new methods of providing products and services to customers. SaaS, with its flexibility, scalability and low cost, is a technology imperative if carriers hope to grow and remain competitive.

For the full white paper Oceanwide, click here.

Translating Business Logic Into Code

Imagine a science-fiction novel involving a computer that becomes independent of humans. It runs their affairs and takes care of their lives, but few, if any, know its inner workings.  But that isn’t science fiction. There are lots of business systems that no one fully understands, designed by people who no longer maintain it, encompassing business logic that was dictated by people who are long gone. In both scenarios, we are at the mercy of a computer. In the first one, Arnold Schwarzenegger saves us. In the second scenario, a humanoid robot won’t do.

Enterprise software development comprises understanding, documenting and implementing business logic, which is the human process the software is supposed to automate. And yet, one of the often neglected links in the chain of skills that software developers possess is the business side. Understanding of the business is necessary to keep the underlying software connected and to stop it from becoming an isolated, unreachable island over time.

This skill does not come naturally or derive inevitably from a technical background. Despite the name, “There are few things that are less logical than business logic,” software guru Martin Fowler writes. Business logic lacks the determinism of functions and conditional paths and the clear-cut rules of Boolean logic. Business logic is the creation of sales and marketing, not mathematicians and software engineers.

A “hybrid-professional” is needed: someone who knows the business and the technology. The benefit of this approach may not be obvious. After all, division of labor exists for a reason, and specialization is due to the limited capacity of individuals and time available to them. Without specialization, major human endeavors wouldn’t have been possible.

There are, however, certain scenarios in which strict specialization is more of a barrier to progress than a facilitator. Enterprise software is an example.

On the surface, the delineation seems natural. The business people know what the business logic is, and they deliver it to the developers in the form of requirements. The developers then translate the requirements to software.

The weakness of this approach is the direction of the translation. Distilling the business process to a set of requirements by a non-developer necessarily deprives the developers of the big picture, so they will write software based on the pinhole view given to them.

It’s like translating text from a foreign language. The message, more or less, can be conveyed if you translate word by word, but to fully appreciate the original content you have to understand the original language in its cultural context.

So developers need to understand business language and directly engage the business side. This approach seems to be merely a reversal of direction. Instead of having the business side deliver the requirements to the technical side, we would be doing the opposite.

How is that better? It is better because the end product lies at the technical end, not the business end. We’re trying to build software to accommodate the business, not the opposite. That dictates the direction, and it makes all the difference.

Business people excel at business, and they do it without worrying about how their decisions will translate to software. It is best to free them from that worry — unless the business itself is software!

Software developers have to worry about the software they create. Because one of the two groups has to be burdened with both sides of the equation, the latter is the natural candidate.

So the ideal hybrid-professional is one with solid roots on the technology side and the skill to venture into the business side and obtain insight into the specific business domain she is developing for. That skill is made up of people skills that complement the “machine skills”; the ability to compartmentalize technology so it doesn’t pollute or dictate the business model; and having true insight, not just knowledge, into the business domain, so that there is never anything lost in translation.