Creating software products versus Supporting software products

For the first time in a long time, I find myself working on applications in a revenue generating department of a company. It’s pretty refreshing. I’m working in online product delivery so the web applications I work on are actually sold to customers via subscriptions – they gain access to a particular application on the web for the length of time that they have paid for. The business focus is to create products and the financial focus is obviously to make money by creating products that customers want to buy. This obviously has a good side and a bad side.

The good side is that it looks like I’ll be working on “new” things a lot. Most programmers love “new” stuff and I’m no different. The bad side is that “old” things aren’t given quite so much concern. Refactoring existing code to run more efficiently is not a priority. It’s almost looked down upon. If a bug arises in an existing application, the focus seems to be to fix the bug in the smallest way possible and move on with the “new” stuff. Still, there’s quite a bit of adulation to go around when something “new” is launched. That’s because it can make money.

Most of my career has been spent working in various IT departments. The business focus in the IT department is one of support. You have to support the other users and the applications they use.

The financial focus of most IT departments is one of saving money or holding onto revenue. You improve programming processes so that applications are quicker and more powerful. This enables people to do more work in less time. But in IT, no matter what you build, you are still only “supporting” the business. You aren’t creating business. No matter how good you are, you aren’t making the company money. You are costing them. You may be helping them to save more money than previously but make no mistake -- You are costing the company money. And you’ll be first on the chopping block when job cuts need to be made.

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