I remember a time in enterprise technology when developers, albeit a small percentage, were “cowboys” – you know, people who “shoot from the hip”. I’m not talking about the irresponsible, incompetent people, but instead the people who knew what needed to be done, knew how to do it, and wouldn’t wait for other people to make it happen. Yes, a bit uncontrolled, but insanely, insanely productive.
I can’t help but feel an overarching culture shift in technology from ROI to security. This special “security beats ROI” mantra was always reserved for the most uncool, slow, unproductive organizations (and unfortunately, it seems government always got the brunt of that since they were never driven by profitability). Well ironically, the trend seems to be reversing. Many areas in government seem to be taking a customer-focused, run-our-organization-like-a-business approach, while some businesses are taking a do-it-securely-and-perfectly-even-if-profitability-is-at-risk approach. Now, I am not saying that either is right or wrong. There are certainly reasons to focus on profitability that need not be explained. And the argument to focus on security and risk mitigation is also valid that need only be explained in one word: Enron.
But, I guess the part that I miss is that rogue developer who would come up with something cool and amazing [in the enterprise] every few months just because he wanted to make an impact. You know where all these developers have gone? Google and small businesses/startups. Google makes everything a beta product, they charge the public for almost nothing, and most importantly, they make enough money in their advertising that they can splurge on cowboy developers. Thus, you can be a developer at Google and work for years without touching anything that would be considered a material risk to the business. It is no surprise that they are attracting so many of the smartest. Part of me hopes that the security-beats-ROI trend in the enterprise is balanced back just a little so we can see our cowboys flourish again.