David’s thesis is that software businesses are somewhat different from other businesses in that:
- Software is intangible
- All meaningful software projects are really building something for the first time
- A software spec is almost the same thing as the software itself (try that for an injection-molded plastic part!)
- The substrate for software — computer hardware — is still doubling in power something like every 18 months
He then draws out the implications of these differences. He says that the principles for building a successful software business are well-understood and even simple, but, like many simple things, are quite hard to execute.
There are a lot of riches in this book. He talks about “positioning” and “execution” as the two major sources of sofware-business woe, and says some great things about both.
And he talks about sources of failure in software executive teams, the main one being a kind of noble hubris that makes tech innovators want to solve the biggest, most complex, most general problems first when the game is to solve the simplest, most pressing specific problems first.
This is “noble” hubris because wanting to solve big problems is a great and lofty aim. But in order to solve them one has to build up a track record of solving specific problems first, and that requires — see it coming — attention to “positioning” and “execution”.
The richness of the book is in the scads of stories. David has lived through more software businesses than most of us and has thought deeply about what went right and wrong with them.
Check it out.