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What We’ve Learned from Working with Over 135,000 Software Developers and IT Managers

Having reached another milestone, with the expansion of our global footprint to the U.S. where, in addition to having over 50 enterprise customers, we’re seeing a huge demand for our services, and our inclusion in Gartners Magic Quadrant as a Challenger, report there’s no better time than now to give a shout out to the community of developers, IT managers and our customers-at-large, who have made this possible!

Nicolas Jodal (CEO, GeneXus)

Nicolas Jodal (CEO, GeneXus)

For three decades, GeneXus has been blessed with bright, ambitious and generous clients/contributors, to whom we have carefully listened, and consequently our success is owed, in large part, to these parties. In so many ways, our experience and history mirrors the digital transformation taking place today, in many businesses and across every sector, and the lessons of our journey can be applied to any other business undergoing a digital transformation.

We cut our teeth in database design, migration and consulting, during the early 80s in Uruguay. It was from this beginning that we morphed into a publisher of low-code software development platform. As with most businesses, this transition was spurred by a confluence of several factors. Customers’ needs, enhanced hardware and software capabilities, and a burning desire to build technology were among those factors.

In the Beginning: the Challenge of AI 30 Years Ago

I’ll share more on how our customers’ needs, through the years, shaped our vision in a minute, but first, I should mention that the specific prompt for the development of the GeneXus development platform and launching of company with the same name, can be traced to a single client. In 1984, the general manager of a large, sports apparel business, based in Sao Paulo Brazil, lamented that he and other senior managers lacked the ability to access and analyze ALL company data, simultaneously (a problem still faced by many operations to this day). At that time, siloed divisions were the norm within a business. The databases of sales, operations, finance, etc. were isolated from one another, which was adequate for analysis by mid-level managers, who were concerned primarily with the performance of their particular department. However, for upper management, responsible for the entire organization, this was insufficient. The multiple, insulated databases made comparisons and correlations from one group to the next difficult at best and impossible, in some cases, at worst.

Developers working on our platform at GeneXus 2016 conference.

Corporate databases, found everywhere today, were the exception rather than the norm, at the time we were approached with this manager’s dilemma. The primary reason for the multiple databases was that databases were considered inherently unstable, meaning they were incapable of conversion to accommodate the frequent and never-ending introduction of next generation systems. An organization with a dozen databases, might expect to see each individual database redesigned every year or two, in order to support the current offering. With a single corporate database, it would have been necessary, at that time, to redesign the entire corporate database every couple of months or so, whenever a department acquired new software, which was wholly untenable.

While an SQL solution would have worked for technically sophisticated users, it was not viable for those not well-versed in SQL. A user-friendly solution was needed and while some existed at the time, none were suitable for tackling the conundrum of random and unique inquiries that managers would make, but instead were tailored for routine and predictable tasks.

In short, a self-maintaining database with a natural language interface and the capability of selecting the correct table (among several 100 in the original case) to respond to an inquiry, which would require some artificial intelligence (AI). The challenge was daunting, but it presented the opportunity to fulfill our client’s need, and make a significant contribution to technology as well as a name for ourselves. We undertook the challenge and in 1989, we released our first application capable of self-maintenance, automatic generation and responding to natural language inquiries. We wholly attribute this accomplishment to the willingness of that apparel manufacturer to having graciously shared their vision and entrusting us to create a viable solution.

Today: Champions for True Digital Transformation

Having built on that original release for nearly 30 years, we now provide the ability for even a novice programmer, or anyone in the organization, to develop in minutes or hours, what would previously had taken weeks or months.

While we are very proud of our accomplishments, the lesson of listening to clients, which was the catalyst for our incarnation, has never been lost on us. That key principle is instilled in every new employee and ingrained in our operations. While we were all happy to see that Gartner mentioned in their Magic Quadrant that our “customer-first culture” was noted by our clients as being exceptional, it comes as no surprise to us. Gustavo Carriquiry, our COO, aptly surmises the purpose of this by pointing out that all too often a developer is focused on the “how” a task can be accomplished, relegating the “why” to the background, resulting in a lack of overall direction and consistency in a project.

To help foster the communication process and create an environment where it is possible, GeneXus has undertaken and supports continuous interactive training (online and in person) and openly invites feedback from our over 135,000 global users. We offer training online and onsite, support a robust Wiki presence and provide deeply-discounted student licenses – all aimed at understanding our users’ needs and accommodating them and strengthening community ties, as best we can. This all begs the question, “What have we at GeneXus, who work with the dedicated community of over 135,000 developers through the years, learned from them?” The answer is far longer than we can put in a blog post, but we asked a few of our staff members who work with our developer customers every day.

Anibal Gonda, GeneXus Technical Evangelist

Anibal Gonda (@anibalgonda), GeneXus Technical Evangelist who interacts with companies, educational institutions and GeneXus users, emphasizes the importance of listening:

“First and fundamental is to listen—active, conscious listening – this is the most important thing I have learned. However much we sell a product, when we are facing a customer or a user, is trust. In order to exchange ideas and share valuable info, listening and trust is crucial. I’ve learned a lot from our customer in that regard.”

Territory Manager, Rodrigo Álvarez, describes what he does for GeneXus as, “Building relationships with people!” In his position at GeneXus he frequently talks with developers and IT managers about their problems, needs and projects to “try to help if I can,” he says. Rodrigo is frequently inspired by the developers he works with:

“I know a software developer that started his own company to build a system. In the beginning, he worked alone. Today his company is the most important in its domain. It has today several employees but only one programmer– the owner who has all the knowledge about the business!”

Rodrigo Álvarez, GeneXus Territory Manager

Rodrigo Álvarez, GeneXus Territory Manager

His feedback on what managers can do to innovate their organizations is pragmatic and underscores the GeneXus mission: “Focus on the business and not the technology.”

In the Future: Creating New Solutions for New Problems

To meet the growing demand for our platform in the U.S., we recently launched offices in the US to support and grow our US-based customers, and to offer even more training and support to anyone in an organization, whether a seasoned programmer or a non-technical employee, to learn how to develop professional, cross-platform applications.

What this all means and how this can be applied to any organization’s digital transformation is that the customer is, and always will be, the key. We are programmers and rely on our prospective and existing clients to define what they need, as we admittedly do not always instinctively know. Through a well-nurtured symbiotic relationship, we surface those needs and build a solution that fits the bill. It’s really the only way that a technology firm can deliver useful products, and the same holds true for management within an organization as they too must listen to their users to understand what exactly is needed and to provide those tools and other resources necessary to enable their workforce.

And for any CTO or other IT professional tasked with a digital transformation initiative seeking guidance or wanting to bounce a seemingly wild idea off us, we gladly invite you to reach out. While we cannot promise to deliver on every request, we can and do commit to listening intensely to any ideas, suggestions or problems and then exploring any possible solutions. The drive to create new solutions for new problems is in our DNA and we welcome any opportunity to tackle the simplest or most complex of problems.

As for our beloved community of developers, we are acutely aware that we are only here today because of your willingness to freely contribute ideas, solutions and general feedback throughout the lifecycle of each and every one of our releases. For that, we offer our sincerest thanks. We anxiously look forward to another 30 years of partnering in the design, development and support of current and forthcoming solutions.

 

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