Merging Values in Business and Tech

Just as people, businesses, and communities have values, so too do the technologies we create and use. Values are reflected in the problems we attempt to solve, in the code we write, and in the issues we file. We may even choose one technology over the other because of our values – do you place a higher value on the built-in support of Ember, or the lightweight nature of Backbone? The asynchronisity of Node, or the flexibility of Rails?

In recognizing that technology has inherent values, we’re given an opportunity to express our own values in everything we do. Aligning organizational values with those of the Open Web lets us take this a step further – to do ‘good’ while doing well. For example, Mozilla has a clear commitment to making the Open Web more accessible to the world. The value of access is reflected plainly in Firefox OS – an Open Web operating system for low-cost mobile phones which is already making an impact in Asia and South America. The business is reflecting its value of access to the Open Web through the technology.

Organizations are more successful when their values align with their technologies.

In order to do this, values should be clearly identified as part of the organization’s culture and mission. If those values are not clearly identified in your organization, you have a great opportunity to have a discussion with your team about your mission and values. We go through this process periodically at Bocoup, and find that it helps keep everyone engaged in the mission and make more values-driven decisions.

Open sourcing those technologies is good for business.

Great products and services result when organizations value the technology they rely upon. Think about the very best experiences you have on the web – there’s no question that these organizations use Open Source software, even if they’re running proprietary services. The most popular sites and applications on the Internet today are also some of the most ardent supporters of OSS – Facebook, Google, Yahoo!, and Twitter have all released OSS, and make major contributions to key OSS technologies.

Another interesting thing about those organizations is that all have let tech decisions inform business decisions. Often times, the business case for a solution is ready before the tech is ready. This results in a rush to market for something that’s not quite stable or complete. There’s not enough time to develop and understand the tech standards that will be required to support the business case in the long run. Letting the technology drive what you’re bringing to market results in better long-term scalability and growth toward ultimate goal.

Standards democratize and codify technology. When we work together to standardize a technology, we’ve actually created a whole platform that supports long-term development & sustainability of the web. This creates an opportunity for organizations to further their mission and values in software others will use, thereby imprinting these values on others in a meaningful way. As an added bonus, this also makes it easier to hire. It’s easier to hire top talent in organizations that support OS and reflect its values. Engineers like learning and giving back – contributing to OS is an easy way to do that and it will always come back to you ten fold.

Note: this is an excerpt of content I presented as a talk last fall at the Thunder Plains JS Conference. I don’t think the videos were ever released, but I did publish my slides.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *