Imagine the Power of One Language

I’ll ask the reader to at least temporarily suspend feelings and thoughts of politics, culture and religion. And, you should cue John Lennon’s “Imagine” to set the scene. Okay, thank you! Please sit down and take a deep breath. Let’s drift off to the land of imagination for a few moments.

Imagine if the whole world spoke one common language, so we could all more easily converse with each other, all around the planet. Imagine if we all employed the same measurement systems. And we all used the same units of monetary currency. This next one is slightly harder, imagine all people everywhere adopt the same religion, or lack thereof. C’mon, I told you to stream John Lennon. It would have helped.

Oh yeah: calendar and dates. It would be great if we could all adopt just one formatting standard. And phone number formatting too. But not EDI. Let’s not get crazy.

Just to make this a lot easier, imagine the selected language, religion, measurement system and currency are the ones you’ve been using. No adoption costs or learning curve for you! And aside from the adoption costs and learning curve for everyone else, the resulting unification of the world’s measurement systems and communication lexicons would bring us closer together and introduce amazing and massive efficiencies. And we’d lose fewer spacecraft behind Mars.

The power of One is exemplified in the early and ongoing story of success at Southwest Airlines. How were they able to edge their way into a monopolized industry, build an incredible brand and effectively execute on a business model that yielded much higher profitability over the years? Many factors, of course. But an undeniable source of strength comes from their standardization on one type of aircraft used across their whole fleet: the Boeing 737. So much business efficiency and simplification are derived from the fact that they have one type of aircraft to purchase, fly, equip, train crews on and maintain. This inherent and concrete simplicity within their business is akin to the other factors of simplicity that the airline pursues. Their stellar performance continues to force efficiencies into the entire air transportation industry. What kinds of things could your business standardize on to drive out complexity?

This next “One” is more difficult, so please sit back down and take another deep breath. Hold on to a stuffed animal for comfort. Imagine: One computer programming language. I know. I know. It’s hard to fathom. Impossible, you may think. Just the act of writing a mobile app nowadays requires at least half a dozen different programming languages and scripts to create and deploy. Not counting the different versions of each computing language, there are literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of them to enjoy. Every programmer has got their favorite language. Some have made it a sport to be certified on as many as they can. You may have seen software developer resumes with more acronyms than pointy ears at a Star Trek convention. They understand that the more programming language certifications they have, the more valuable they are to an employer with a typically large, diverse and complex array of stuff to support.

This author once led an IT services team that built customizations to a half dozen different SaaS products. Each of the products ran on different computing hardware and operating systems. The previous customizations that were built were in the respective programming languages of the core product. So there I was with six different products and six different developers with each knowing the one language for the product that they serviced. Scheduling work was painful. Every new request would have to await the one developer who could pull the right levers. Things seemingly took forever to get done. I began cross-training the developers and was surprised at how much capacity this opened up for the team. New incoming requests, serviceable by multiple team members, could be done more quickly. Alas, it was still difficult to lose anyone from the team and recruiting was still challenged by trying to find candidates who knew at least four of the six programming languages we used.

Computing languages hold such deep and emotional dogma – among some coding practitioners – sometimes much deeper than any culture or religion – striking at the very core of what it means to be an individual. But what if IT teams everywhere weren’t struggling to maintain and manage programming skills to stay on top of all the languages used across their entire IT portfolio? What if programmers could master one powerful language and exclusively use it across web, mobile, desktop, server and cloud deployments? What if that one language enabled the integration of other languages to ease coalescence? Wouldn’t that drive out a lot of the complexity of what it means to be IT?

For IT departments, imagine how much easier life will be when every one of your developers is able to service each and every one of your application support needs, backlogs and new development requests. The business of managing the portfolio of IT skills gets so much easier. Team members can go on vacations and even retire without impact to your portfolio supportability. And recruiting new talent just got easier. Instead of trying to check off a list of different must-have languages, you can just verify the depth of the candidates programming abilities.

For programmers, don’t fret! What if your next certification is for the next programming language that truly enables you to get the work of IT done faster without digging the portfolio deeper into the multi-language morass of nearly impossible maintenance backlogs. And wouldn’t it be more fun not to have to dig back into old apps that you’ve previously delivered solely to upgrade the syntax of one of the six languages that were used to build it only to discover that it has become the victim to the ensuing cascade of other version interdependencies? Instead, you’ll be applying your in-depth knowledge of your firm’s business models and rules to build new applications faster, thereby levering your new “one language” to help digitally transform faster and better.

We could quantify the value of this one-language approach in some arbitrary unit of monetary currency, forcing most readers to perform a conversion, but John Lennon is still playing and we’re still imagining.

When you’re ready to stop imagining and start doing, learn more about the one programming language approach here: https://www.lansa.com/technology/programming-language.htm.

Author:

Joe leads the global marketing team at LANSA, a provider of low-code software development tools. Joe started out his career with a series of computer operations and programming positions where he designed and built systems to optimize manufacturing production runs, manage large equipment and asset maintenance, optimize inventories, and consolidate multi-national financial ledgers. Joe’s 20+ year career has included technical and marketing leadership roles at GE as well as a series of small software technology companies in Chicagoland including Infogix, SmartSignal, Cleo, and now LANSA. His position at LANSA has him helping fellow programmers find productivity solutions to better maintain and build software applications.

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