…for the first time in close to a century it’s probably easier to make a fortune in auto manufacturing working with (or founding) a startup than by signing-on with one of the big companies.

If you haven’t heard yet, Tesla has set an objective to increase production speed 20X to an astonishing 1 meter per second (2.24 mph). Astonishing because at that rate, one Tesla assembly line could produce nearly 80% of the cars produced by the 23 global assembly plants of the Ford Motor Company in 2016 (5.25 million vs 6.651 million). If Tesla can achieve this objective, factory automation will have achieved something truly significant: robots will no longer simply replace people by doing the same work, robots will be doing work that people simply can’t. If true, as noted by Robert Cringely in his blog,

“…for the first time in close to a century it’s probably easier to make a fortune in auto manufacturing working with (or founding) a startup than by signing-on with one of the big companies.”

This is the kind of disruptive innovation we’ve all been hearing about, applied to one of the major manufacturing industries on the planet. If you believe Elon Musk can deliver on his objectives, than you are not surprised that Tesla is worth more on Wall Street than Ford (and you are not alone).

What if we look at the information processes that affect businesses in the same way Mr. Musk looks at the factory floor? After all, information processes are also constrained by labor – which is why companies like HarrisData have set objectives to deliver software that reduces administrative labor by 40%. Tesla stopped looking at robots as a way to simply do what people do. They started looking at what robots could do, and set objectives accordingly. Information processes are no different. It’s time to stop trying to get information robots to simply emulate what people have done for decades. It’s time to start thinking about information automation from the perspective of what the information robots can do.

The enterprise software market is much like the car market – big players and outdated processes focused on the ‘user experience’. To help enterprise applications start leveraging what information robots can do, software developers must start by developing new information processes that require less (or no) human intervention – processes that are limited only by the speed of the computer. To get 20X improvements, enterprise application software must be designed to make the information robots more effective – not to mimic the user processes of decades ago.

They have a saying in web application development: the API is the application. Information robots talk to each other through the API. Already, thousands of applications are communicating with each other across the Internet using APIs – information robots in one application requesting services from information robots in another. Processes are evolving that allow the information robots to accomplish tasks that people never could. Soon enough, enterprise applications will start to recognize that the API is the application, and that the ‘user experience’ is the add-on. And when that happens, the big players will start to feel a lot like Ford.


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