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Software is eating the world, make sure it doesn't eat you

August 27, 2020

Software is the core of business: sky high tech valuations show software is 'eating the world'.

This is even more true when businesses are technical - like architecture firms. It is an almost overwhelming problem: there is so much software - free, paid, freemium, SaaS, complex, simple - that figuring out how to procure it, train staff and integrate it needs more and more focus.

The tempting solution is to buy the 'one platform' that does it all. This is definitely the wrong answer.

I'll tell a story that sheds light on this from our perspective.

Customers often ask if we can style, host and serve map data. We can! We allow a user to upload data quickly, easily and cheaply and get it into a project (I emphasise cheap and easy: 10 clicks, and less than a dollar a gigabyte).

But customers often want more: fully featured styling, tiling the data for performance etc. Now we could say to those customers: Yes! We'll build that feature, we'll add that button.

But this is a mistake for us: we want to be the best early stage design software in the world. We don't want to be a scaled out mapping tool. There are already mapping products that we love: Mapbox Studio and the Esri. They are so good at what they do, why would we replicate them?

Here we are using Mapbox Studio and loving it!

Rather than spend effort copying them, we stick to our knitting and make sure that you can integrate with these products effortlessly. Once you've styled some data in Mapbox (or Esri), you can add it to Giraffe with four easy, self documenting steps:

Now the styled Mapbox layer can be used in any Giraffe project you give it permission to. The best of Mapbox and the best of Giraffe.

The future is not a monopoly platform. It belongs to companies that focus all their energy on solving a particular problem beautifully, and also connect seamlessly with other solutions.

The alternative: huge products that solve most problems adequately but actively fence their customers in to closed data formats. These are a workable solutions for now, but are increasingly a liability to a business. The Autodesk letter is evidence of this.

And don't worry about training. All software is built on the same principles - the time you spend learning a new piece of software that is the right one for the job, will be dwarfed by the time it saves you.