Why We Need Hackers

After reading Gil Tayar’s post on our Agile Development process, I came across this post about hackers on the Rands in Repose blog. Rands quotes Philippe Kahn, once CEO of Borland (Microsoft competitor), who yelled out at a meeting, “We’re barbarians, not bureaucrats!”

Rands writes:

“The story of every company begins with a clever hack. Pick any company, read its history, and I’m pretty sure there will be a well-documented origin story that will define its beginning and involves someone building something new and possibly of unexpected value.”

And he is correct. Even the value of our ProPlus product was discovered in an unexpected way. It took off in the SharePoint space and our users started inventing ways to utilize the product that we hadn’t considered. They were hacking! And we had to continue to develop in a way that would keep us ahead of our customers. We had to become hackers ourselves.

What Kahn meant with his outburst is that it is the barbarians who are ruthless, take risks, and ultimately break new ground. Similarly, it is hackers who discover value in places where others aren’t looking. As a technology company, we must both act as hackers and deter them. If we’re not constantly improving our product, looking for bugs, fixing them, and hacking our own system, our product will fall short, or worse, fall prey to a hacker.

This is why, as Gil explained in his post, our development team must constantly create, change, test, and deploy…over and over and over again. This is the hacker mentality. The word “hacker” is a word people shy away from, a word that businesses fear, that customers fear, a word you especially do not want to mention when you work in “the cloud.” But, ultimately, hackers are good and we need them. Hacking leads to new ideas, better products, and agile development.

So, the next time you hear the word “hacker” and it makes you shudder…not to worry. Just read my previous post on security to reassure you and remember that hacking is necessary.