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Collaboration: Enterprise Secret Weapon Against Rapidly Changing Technology

by Nat Natarajan - CTO, SVP-Product and Engineering Consumer Tax Group, Intuit August-2015

Change is constant. This is proven over and over again in our lives. While change occurs naturally, technology is transforming more rapidly than any other area -through consumption, innovation, and as an industry. Existing products and services are constantly being replaced through faster, newer, better, or cheaper technologies. To delight customers, companies are constantly revisiting capabilities and re-aligning with the latest marketplace trends. In this disruptive environment, how does an established software company plan for the future and manage the needs for the short term? And why are so few established companies successful at changing?

Technology change is hard(er) for established companies
When it comes to adapting and evolving it isn't an even playing field-startups have a major advantage over larger, established companies. With existing customer bases to maintain, established companies have a technical debt that slows down the speed at which they can adapt to change and address new unmet customer needs while more nimble startups are able to leverage new technologies and platforms to solve unmet customer needs without having to deal with tech debt and an installed customer base. They are not subject to the innovator's dilemma.

Open source opens opportunities for enterprise organizations
The good news for more established organizations is that change is also occurring in software used by enterprises. Historically, large organizations would purchase software needed to run their businesses. Today, more and more companies like Netflix, PayPal, Google, and Intuit are partnering around open source solutions that allow them to be more agile, collaborate beyond boundaries and move at the same pace as nimble start-ups. At the same time, open source solutions can reduce operational IT expenditures and simultaneously increase innovation.

Agility in a rapidly changing world
In a world where technology is infiltrating our lives in new ways every day, it's paramount that software evolve. Open source solutions can be adapted to meet an organization's needs.
From desktop to tablet to mobile phone, software today can be built to cross multiple platforms-known and unknown.

For example, a few years ago, TurboTax revolutionized tax filing with the introduction of its SnapTax mobile app, the first app to enable tax preparation and filing from a mobile device. SnapTax used the camera capability of the phone to snap a picture of a W-2 form and then automatically filled in the information on the taxpayer's return. SnapTax enabled the 60 million Americans who have simple tax returns (a 1040A or 1040EZ) to file their taxes in about 10 minutes on their mobile device. While this was significant innovation, it left millions of customers who had more complex returns unable to benefit from the ease and convenience of mobile tax preparation.

After building multiple partial technology solutions like SnapTax, TurboTax recently renewed its strategy to innovate on its core technology and product experience. In the recent tax season, for the first time ever, all American tax filers could start or finish on any device. TurboTax achieved this by innovating on the core with open source solutions like node.js to deliver mobile offerings as a service.

Access across boundaries
Open source also opens access to new candidates, new thinking and new collaborations, no matter one's location or organization. Open source solutions allow companies to go beyond collaboration within their organizations-across company and global boundaries.

It also provides an important way to show potential talent how they can contribute. Open source is "proof of innovation" in the company. This allows candidates to get a feel for life inside the company before they even interview or to get them to think about a company they normally would not consider.

Why is collaboration important? Because a larger group of engineers working together will produce a more useful software with fewer bugs. To connect large groups of engineers as a community, organizations are open sourcing key software components like PayPal and their Krakenjs. These projects create the opportunity for engineers inside and outside PayPal to solve new problems and for their organizations to have better software.

Move fast
In addition to a growing set of customer devices, data is being digitized at unsurpassed rates. We need software that can quickly adapt to harness the power of this data. The evolution of the 3rd Computing Platform allows big data and social to drive remarkably personalized experiences. Products that deliver the same experience to all customers suddenly feel outdated and old. Conversely, companies that use the new platform and the insights it delivers will deliver never-before-seen experiences.

At a speed that's hard to keep up with, technology is pushing businesses to innovate faster than ever before. In the battle against the rapid pace of technological change, companies across the globe, including Intuit, are instituting open source technologies, leveraging collaboration as their secret weapon in the fight.