James Governor's Monkchips

Developers as New Kingmakers- Global or just US?

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RedMonk has been making the case that developers are growing in influence, driven by the consumerisation of IT, the corporate realisation that competitive advantage is indeed instantiated in software, that everyone wants an API and or an app store, that outsourcing doesn’t solve development problems, the cloud, the web – all the macro trends lead to a need for good software developers. Craft over automation. Oh yeah don’t forget social.

We have plenty of evidence to make the case- not least the shape of our own business as we do more and more work in the Developer Experience and Developer Relations advisory spaces. But its important not to get too carried away. Sometimes enterprise developers pop up and say we’re missing the point, that cubicle computing and the nine to five being treated badly are still the norm. Work on your skills I’d tend to say – there are some amazing development jobs out there.

But Bernard Golden, CEO of Hyperstratus, asked me a great question. Is the New Kingmakers just a US phenomenon? What about Europe, Africa and Asia Pac?

It seems to me the rising salaries and standard of living of many Indian software engineers, and the return of many US-based Desis to their home nations is actually a pretty good indicator of new kingmaker status. In China we know engineering is better respected than in the West right now. As I understand it many, if not the majority, of senior Chinese politicians have an engineering background.

In the UK developers are certainly an increasingly hot property. The civil service is even hiring nerds again, to build stuff inhouse. See alphagov. What does that mean? The Cabinet Office is now using Amazon Web Services, Google Search, Github, Get Satisfaction – not your normal central government supplier list that. New Kingmakers, see.

But I am not going to claim RedMonk has a great bead on the global picture. I’d really like to know what you think. Got any evidence. Are software developers and engineers globally becoming more influential, and hopefully even better paid – ideally better appreciated.


  1. I think India in particular is not really getting on to the cloud bandwagon. Only vendors like Microsoft, IBM, HP, VMware are pushing very hard for cloud adoption, but i think it will take time. SIs, Service providers, channle partners are all not seriously focussed on cloud now. It seems they all are concentrating on cost reduction, SOA, application modernization etc. As per my understanding and research, I think developers here are still unaware about cloud techologies and interest is slowly growing up. Even though AWS operates from Singapore, they have very decent customer base here and most of them are ISVs, Start ups and small IT service providers…

    I think it will still take some time for software developers and engineers to become more influential in Indian market.

    1. Nandavarapu – thanks! very helpful commentary. but within the context of driving lower cost operations in India who is making the technical decisions? all top down? outsourcing clients. So you see Singapore as well ahead in terms of cloud adoption?

  2. I see a shift towards Software Development as a (capital P) Profession as opposed to a Trade with Open Source communities playing the part of the Bar. I don’t think Developers are King-makers, but I do think that technical expertise is starting to garner the same level of respect from upper management that was previously reserved for business and legal.

    I’m giving a talk at Apachecon in November about this topic, and my main message to developers is “stop asking for permission, start talking to management like a professional, you deserve more respect”.

    1. Tim – again good stuff. bit worried about the capital p – you only need to look at the BCS “professionalisation” debacle to the see the issues there. Developers are king-makers in that they choose the platforms apps are built on. Sounds like a great talk!

  3. Hi James,

    Yes, Indian enterprises are still following the top down approach for technical decisions. Clients still dominate decision making for SIs but this is getting restricted to individual projects. Infosys, Wipro, TCS, HCL are increasing their emphasis on domestic market where IBM clearly dominates with more than 50% share. SIs/ISVs are slowly trying to get into the cloud bandwagon in some or the othr way to compete more with well established players like IBM, Accenture, Cap Gemini etc. to differentiate themselves.

    Although, there is a growing change in decision making in other companies. I dont think India is still able to offer lower cost operations which is visible clearly with 2 UK companies moving out of India due to growing costs (This is in particular to BPO/contact center operations).

    I think Singapore, Australia are leading in terms of cloud adoption in APAC as these markets have IT maturity level and they have maximum datacenters by most cloud vendors.

  4. James, I don’t know that the alphagov experiment can be considered to be a mainstream shift in direction by the UK government. But, the shift towards smaller IT projects, agility, shared services and infrastructure all point to a shift away from the standard System Integration model, to be replaced by cloud/IT as a service thinking. The role of the developer in this is more service integrator than coder. There are many challenges in this shift but the direction seems to be coming more clear. Compelling evidence of this can be seen in AWS development of tools for service assembly. Ian

    1. Ian – that’s a solid point but I would argue alphagov is a leading indicator, and an example that the trends we describe are indeed extant in the UK, even in a sector not known for innovation generally. I am a little nervous about your belief that the only work to be done here is “integration”. I supposed it depends how you define integration… but the traditional SI model is indeed broken.

  5. IMHO, in India, the developers are becoming key decision makers. In large corporate/outsourcing companies, the clients get to choose what they want to use. Other efforts like product development, internal projects are driven by developers. Almost every major outsourcing company has a R&D/Innovation labs driven by developers to create new revenues and products. Developers run entire units by themselves.

    In startup ecosytem, at least the new breed, decision making is all developers. As you said, many are Desis returning from USA. One example is : http://infinitelybeta.com/
    Startups are using every technology option to deliver services, products at low cost. Not enough VCs take risk here. Almost every successful start-ups have one technical co-founder running the show. Makemytrip.com, cleartrip.com, paisa.com, etc

    The government is still stuck in ’90s. Just recently, the railways started online ticketing. Politicians don’t have enough money to invest in IT what is left after all the scams, bribes, etc.

  6. […] Developers are the new kingmakers.  Or usurpers.  Sometimes both. […]

  7. […] leadings lights in the Shoreditch bearded digerati in London – James Governor of Redmonk has long argued the case for developers as the new kingmakers within enterprise […]

  8. […] Clearly we have the dotcom revolution to thank as one factor in this change. Even 1984′s ‘Revenge of the Nerds’ did not predict the extent to which code geeks would evolve into some of today’s richest and most influential figures, much less the enterprise ‘kingmakers’ RedMonk has annointed. […]

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