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Trolley Cars and Web-Application Development

Build, Deploy, and Manage Software Applications

I’m in San Francisco to meet with a leading analyst firm in the technology industry. It is developing a detailed report on platform as a service, which is attracting considerable attention these days.

To give you an example of why there is so much interest in these cloud-computing-based platforms, it is very possible that future technologists will utilize a platform to perform all of their tasks such as to build, deploy and manage software applications. They will not deal with servers, operating systems or write any code. At the same time, organizations will save a lot of money, they will automate more of their business processes, and they will be much more nimble to adapt to market demands.

If the scenario comes to fruition, then the emergence of platform as a service for Web-application development and deployment will disrupt and displace an entire industry; an industry whose revenue each year exceeds $1 trillion globally. If there is a chance to redirect revenue on that scale, people are going to take notice.

So, about my trip: I decided to take some time yesterday to enjoy San Francisco. At the corner of Powell and Market streets , two trolley lines find themselves at the far end of their route. They basically just go back and forth, over and again, every day.

Interestingly, however, they only go in one direction; at the end of the line, there is a piece of track that acts like a lazy Susan. Three guys spin the trolley 180 degrees so it can head back the way it came.

These cars are old, they are made of wood, they are probably very energy inefficient.  And there was a line around the block to ride on them.

Last week I was involved in two different bids for enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems — software designed to run an entire business, from sales to order entry to inventory to accounting. In both bids, old-guard products that were the mainstay of business operations for the past two decades weren’t even making it past the first round of consideration. I watched the brochures go straight to the 13th file. In a way it’s unfortunate, because the producers of these products don’t really seem to be aware of how much they resemble today’s trolley cars.

Well, that’s not exactly true; unlike software, trolley cars are cool and people like them.

Unfortunately, as these newer concepts of Web-application development go up against the trolley cars of the software industry, there aren’t going to be any lines around the block waiting to test drive the old-guard offerings. Not only will no one care, but they will cheer its demise.

Seeing the lines to ride those old, rickety, inefficient vehicles, I realized one thing: Software isn’t cool, it’s necessary. And it better be the best available in the market today or the pace of your demise may surprise even you.

When thinking about Web-application development and platform as a service, I hear the words of the trolley driver in my head, “All aboard.”

Treff LaPlante is president and CEO of Carlisle-based WorkXpress.

This was originally posted on the Central Penn Business Journal Gadget Cube.

More Stories By Treff LaPlante

Treff LaPlante has been involved with technology for nearly 20 years. At WorkXpress, he passionately drives the vision of making customized enterprise software easy, fast, and affordable.

Prior to joining WorkXpress, Treff was director of operations for eBay's HomesDirect. While there, he created strategic relationships with Fortune 500 companies and national broker networks and began his foray into the development of flexible workflow software technologies. He served on the management team that sold HomesDirect to eBay.

During his time at Vivendi-Universal Interactive, Treff was director of strategy. In addition to M&A activities, Treff broadly applied quantitative management principles to sales, marketing, and product line functions. Treff served as the point person for the management team that sold Cendant Software to Vivendi-Universal. Earlier positions included product management and national sales trainer for Energy Design Systems, an engineering software company. Treff began his professional career as a metals trader for Randall Trading Corp, a commodities firm that specialized in bartering and transporting various metals and coal from the then-dissolving Soviet Union.

Treff received his MBA from Pepperdine University and a BS in chemical engineering from The Pennsylvania State University. http://www.workxpress.com

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