Every Company is a Design Company

Over the last couple of years, we’ve read and heard several times that: “Every company is a software company” or that “Software is Eating the World”, referring to Marc Andreessen’s 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal. Things are changing.

Over the last fifteen years, we’ve seen tech’s power of transformation grow exponentially and squeeze into each and every company institution and person. Today products, projects, strategies and whole businesses rely solely on technology, mainly software, to grow.

This is caused by a paradigm shift that, from my perspective, began when the App Store was released. It democratized the way in which apps and companies were created. Software has always been something unattainable and exclusive. The App Store broke in and allowed companies to actually be software companies. As Apple mentioned in their last statement regarding their recent “battle” with Spotify, the App Store “has helped create many millions of jobs, generated more than $120 billion for developers and created new industries through businesses started and grown entirely in the App Store ecosystem.”.

Kuhn Cycle

This isn’t new anybody working in the tech industry. Also, everybody working in tech knows technology does not work in a steady, cumulative “progress”. There are discontinuities filled with uncertainty. Thomas Kuhn would name these “discontinuities” revolutionary phases. Yes, he talked about Newtonian mechanics or quantum physics but technology behaves that way. There are great conceptual breakthroughs such as the iPhone or App Store releases and they lay the basis for a succeeding phase of business as usual where the tech community share a common intellectual framework.

During the “every company is a software company” phase, everybody working in the tech industry engaged in solving problems thrown up by “errors” in software. Now, there are very few software challenges in the tech products and services companies provide. The software paradigm is entering a period of crisis because software is no longer enough. Technology needs something else in order to keep improving and reinventing itself. Just in case: this doesn’t mean ditching software.

My guess? Design. And by design I don’t just mean UX/UI. We need design to squeeze into every company from top to bottom because software by itself is no longer capable of solving the field’s current problems of interests. We need design in order to stop making decisions relying on guesswork and intuition.

The way in which companies, agencies and studios build products and services has changed. Solving real problems in the most efficient way and generating a great user experience are key points in today’s tech industry. It’s not just about technology as something new, shiny and expensive. It’s about finding the best way of transferring value from companies to users.

Today design is a tool that helps technology keep on transforming companies and people. Design is a tool that helps companies identify problems, align teams and plan out concrete actions.

As the tech industry paradigm shifts from software to design, both coexist and each uses its own rules to judge the other. Thus believers in each paradigm cannot communicate well and more problems arise. This causes change resistance and competition between areas such as Design and Development that used to be well separated and now start to merge. The Designer’s role becomes strategic.

Let me repeat one more time, this paradigm change does not mean deleting software and replacing it with design. It just means adding a new tool to enhance the technology industry and improve products, processes, experiences and businesses. Once design settles something else will come up. It’s a cycle. Our knowledge is never complete.

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