Mark Stephens Mark has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and is a big NetBeans fan. He enjoys speaking at conferences. He has an MA in Medieval History and a passion for reading.

5 things I learned from Business of Software Conference Europe 2019

1 min read

Last week I was lucky to attend the Business of Software Europe conference 2019 in Cambridge. This is my 8th Business of Software. So did I learn anything new after all this time?

Innovation is a constant game. In the software industry, we are all running just to keep still. The conference itself is a really good example as each year is the same and yet different. I was very skeptical that having someone sketch notes on a talk would ever work…(luckily we are allowed to be wrong in this game). The trick is to define what your core, unchanging values are and to radically innovate everything else. There were lots of speakers and attendees explaining how they were doing this.

Paul Kenny talk

The software industry revolves around people. We sometimes forget that our business is people creating products for people. Dame Shirley talked about how she was defining remote and flexible working conditions when the telephone was considered high tech comms. Several speakers, including Clare Lew, Gareth Marlow, and Paul Kenny talked about looking after and developing people. Derek Sivers talked about how Companies mislead or trick people with dark patterns and suggested his alternative of Mensch patterns.

Running/working at a Software Company is hard. Gareth Marlow was painfully honest about burn out and how to recover from it. Poppy Gustafsson talked about getting work/life balance while being CEO of a tech Unicorn. At the same time, Ruth Everard reminded us that some people have to work far harder than us while Dame Shirley brought home that prejudice is still alive in the workplace. 

Software companies have to work as hard on things other than software. Rich Mironov reminded us that a major cost of software is other activities such as sales, marketing, etc. Paul Kenny talked in great detail on how to make the sales process work for software. Elpie Bannister and Alex Yang went into great detail on how they recruit and hire. Randy Silver talked about how to really find out what customers want (and it is not in focus groups).

It is okay not to have an exit strategy. I loved Amir Salihefendic’s talk. He is focussed on building his Company – he jokingly said his exit strategy was to die at work. LIke us, he is a big fan of Basecamp and choosing to focus on your best ideas. If you only intend to work at one Company for the rest of your life, it also means you will really focus on making that the best possible Company.

It is very hard to distill an event like Business of Software into a short post and impossible to capture some bits in any way (like the hallway track where you get to meet 200 other attendees which are worth attending the conference for alone). I will spend the next few weeks, mulling over and implementing what I heard. What was your key takeaway from the conference?


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Mark Stephens Mark has been working with Java and PDF since 1999 and is a big NetBeans fan. He enjoys speaking at conferences. He has an MA in Medieval History and a passion for reading.

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