Standing Under Your Code: The Seven Stages of Digital Transformation

In ancient Rome, the Empire asked its bridge builders to stand under the bridges they built as the First Legion of the Roman Army marched overhead. Bridges were too critical to fail—essential public utilities built by valued craftsmen. To ensure accountability, and to demonstrate confidence and skill, bridge builders did not just stand by their work; they stood under it.

Like these Roman bridge builders, software developers are crucial to every facet of our economy, our governments, and our lives. Whether they think of themselves as software engineers, developers, programmers, coders, or hackers, these men and women build the software that powers more of the world every day. They are the developer workforce, and businesses must invest in and make a commitment to them.

Technological advancement has ushered in a top-down and bottom-up digital transformation of business – and this bell cannot be unrung. Every company must now accept that it is (or should be) a technology company at the core. Regardless of its size or the industry it’s in, every business now depends on developers to build products and services that drive enterprise-wide innovation. Technology no longer supports business; technology is business. Without investing in technology and the developers who make it all work, companies will fail to adapt to the new marketplace.

As consumers, most of us accept technological change quickly, adapt to it, and even expect innovation as a right rather than a privilege. For companies, however, change is much harder. While it is true that every company is a technology company, many businesses have not yet accepted this fact, and even fewer have evolved to fully accommodate the digital transformation.

For companies grappling with this new landscape and its implications, the familiar five-stage Gartner Hype Cycle tells us something important about incorporating technology into a business; however, it ignores the very real emotional struggles that senior leaders have in the face of change. Therefore, the Application Developers Alliance has developed a simple socio-technological framework for mapping this change over time.

Apps Alliance Developer Cycle

By overlaying the commonly accepted seven stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, acceptance, and hope) onto the Hype Cycle curve, the emotional rollercoaster associated with such change becomes evident, and puts this transformation process into context for how businesses typically react to new technology.

 These are the seven stages of digital transformation, and every company must work through these stages in order to successfully emerge into the new market of the digital age. As with the stages of grief, the stages of digital transformation are inevitable and require an honest assessment of one’s current phase in the process. Now, there is nothing tragic about digital transformation, but we can better understand how organizations are working through their tech-related growing pains by applying what we know about our own struggles with change.

The Alliance wants companies to get to the other side of this learning curve faster—to move quickly to the acceptance stage and with fewer pain points. We want to lead enterprise in the direction of innovation, and this means equipping businesses to utilize their best asset: their developers. We want to empower progressive developers to update their career trajectories and understand the modern software delivery chain.

Industry-leading companies are the ones who recognize, empower, and deeply integrate their developers into every facet of the business—a competitive advantage that will only become more crucial in the future. This focus on developers increases speed and security, reduces costs, and skyrockets efficiency across markets and regions. Businesses will win or lose based on their software product design, deployment, and operation—and developers are key to that success. IT must move from being a cost and control function to being a strategic asset that does not increase risk to the business.

As businesses outside traditional technology fields rely more and more on this critical developer workforce, it in turn needs to be nurtured so that both developers and businesses can thrive. The Alliance recently launched theDeveloper Workforce Initiative with one goal in mind: to prepare a new type of developer for a new type of market.

This initiative begins with the support of some of the most innovative and developer-centric Alliance member companies: Apcera, AT&T,, Ericsson, Facebook, Ford, Google, Intel, and MapR. Our cross-industry coalition will work to increase the size, readiness, and understanding of the global developer workforce.

The Developer Workforce Initiative will:

  • Conduct research and analysis of the industry, the markets, and the workforce
  • Create professional certifications for developers, including core competency, platform and industry-specific testing, and broader curriculum development
  • Connect industry leaders, technologists, and the developer workforce through programming and digital channels
  • Advocate for national and global regulatory environments that foster innovation for next-generation markets

For the people building this new world—the developer workforce—the digital transformation is an opportunity to build more innovative software, more significant products, and more successful careers. Now is our chance to invest in the future by supporting the people who will make it possible for the rest of us.

Like the bridges of ancient Rome, the complexity of a software-driven world raises the stakes for developers, for businesses, and for society. Developers are the craftsmen building our future—a future that requires a better appreciation of their work and the opportunity for developers to stand under their code.

Jake Ward

CEO & President