Netflix’s stock dive offers developer and software lessons for any business


Commentary: Smart companies should make software a core strength and offer paved paths to their developers. Matt Asay provides more details.

netflix crowbar
Image: NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe Stock

It’s become such a truism to declare, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has, that “every company is a software company” that it’s easy to forget software, while essential, isn’t all most companies will do. Or as analyst Benedict Evans has written about Netflix: “The tech has to be good — but it’s still all about the TV.”

Tech as a crowbar

Netflix has seen its stock price take a 75% dive from its all-time high just a few months back. For the first time in 10 years, it lost subscribers: 200,000 of them. Smarter people than I will come up with reasons, but here’s mine: It’s been ages since there was something on Netflix that I wanted to see (the new “Stranger Things” season is a big exception to that rule). As NBC Universal, Disney, Apple and others have launched their own streaming services, they’ve pulled content out of Netflix. What’s left, at least for me, and apparently for others, simply isn’t worth the increased subscription price Netflix charges.

Which to Evans’ point, is all about TV, not technology.

SEE: 10 ways to prevent developer burnout (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Thinking through Netflix’s challenges, Evans continued: “All of the questions that matter are TV industry questions. How many shows, in what genres, at what quality level?… These are not Silicon Valley questions — they’re LA and New York questions.”

This doesn’t mean that technology doesn’t matter. It does, but it’s the ante to compete for TV subscribers. This brings us to your business.

Developers, developers, developers

What’s true of Netflix is likely true for your business: If you’re not already a software business, you need to become one. Or, rather, software needs to become a core strength rather than a failing.

That’s the only way to fend off the crowbars of Netflix-like companies hoping to compete in your market. This means, as I’ve argued before, that every company needs to figure out how to hire, retain and enable developers.

SEE: Business leaders as developer: The rise of no–code and low–code software (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Smart companies are figuring out how to offer paved paths to their developers. Like Netflix, they’re creating self-service development platforms using Kubernetes and other technologies to provide freedom-through-guardrails, thereby allowing developers room to innovate on their behalf. And when developers are in short supply (which is increasingly the case for everyone, given demand), they’re turning to low-code platforms to effectively enlist employees beyond IT to contribute to development.

Those developers aren’t going to transform a bank or retailer into a software company, per se, but they can ensure that software doesn’t become a reason for customers to go elsewhere.

Disclosure: I work for MongoDB, but the views expressed herein are mine.



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