Nerd Economy Part II – It’s the User Economy Too

Patrick Moran recently wrote a great article about the “Nerd Economy”. In his post, Patrick makes a strong argument that software engineers — aka nerds that code — are pushing the global economy forward. How are they doing this? By “supplying” apps.

Supply and Demand CurvesI’m not an economist but I know the basics of supply and demand. (I took ECON 101 after all.) The short of it is: If supply goes up and demand stays put (or goes down) then prices drop. If supply stays the same (or goes down) and demand increases, then prices go up.

The current supply of apps is going up. And since we know software engineers are smart, it is safe to assume they aren’t flooding the market with apps to bring the price of their products down. So, that must mean that demand is also increasing and most likely at a faster pace than supply.

What is driving this rapid increase in demand for apps? Well, there’s mobile. And social. And lot’s of other drivers no doubt. But what I think is really the core driver of this wave of demand growth is user experience. Another (more negative) way to say it is that the previous generation of apps, both consumer and business, were painful to use.

I’ve noticed a trend where successful startup founders are no longer just good hackers. The best ones are still good hackers, but they also have a deep foundation in user experience and design. And when I say design, I don’t just mean a good color palette. I mean the design of the total app experience, which includes everything from app discovery, to signup and installation, to that first experience with the app, and through the various flows and interactions that users take within an app.

Consumer-focused apps have been leading the charge in this new era. As it turns out though, people who buy and use business-focused apps have a life outside of work. And in this non-work life they are CONSUMERS. That’s right, they are consumers who use these new and slick consumer apps. And guess what? They want the apps that they use day in and day out at work to have the same level of pizzazz as the apps they use at home.

R “Ray” Wang, Principal Analyst and CEO at Constellation Research, summarized what these business app users are looking for in his Harvard Business Review blog post back in July 2011:

  1. Simple. Solutions should embody design thinking at the outset. Technology should not require a manual. Solutions should be easy to use and self-service.
  2. Scalable. Solutions should flex up and flex down as demand changes. Technology must work in a wide range of environments.
  3. Safe. Organizations expect these solutions to not only integrate with ease but also not to harm existing systems or jeopardize how users perform daily work and operations. New technology must not adversely impact another proven system.
  4. Secure. These solutions should pass encryption requirements, prevent data intrusion, and protect key intellectual property assets. Resources must be invested to fend off internal and external digital threats.
  5. Sustainable. Consumer technologies must meet requirements for flexibility and adaptability over longer periods of time (e.g. 7 to 10 years). Platforms must allow users to extend and expand their functionality. Solutions should be extensible.
  6. Sexy. Solutions must draw passion among users. Users must enjoy using the software.

Some how, I just don’t see the existing enterprise software elephants, as Box co-founder and CEO Aaron Levie calls them, focusing on some of these 6 S’s. I’ve worked at a few of these beasts, so I can tell you first hand that simple and sexy just don’t make it into the product spec.

So, there you have it developers. There’s a ton of demand for your apps. But before you get it out there, remember your app can’t just meet your customer’s functional needs – that isn’t enough anymore. You have to WOW them. And that’s the approach we take at New Relic. Our engineers solve very complex problems, many of which are related to how we can make our application performance management solution simple and fun to use (and we kinda think it’s sexy too!)


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Supply and Demand Curves courtesy of sdashiell, on Flickr

As Sr Director of Product Marketing at New Relic, Bill leads a stellar team of product marketing experts. Our primary goal in life is educating all our customers about the wonderful products and capabilities in the New Relic Software Analytics product suite. View posts by .

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