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TechEdge AI Interview with Shiva Nathan, Founder and CEO, Onymos

Why Are Companies Wasting Precious Software Development Resources on Maintenance? Expert Explains

Today, there are a myriad of software and application types that exist, spanning industries such as retail, financial services, healthcare, education and more. The companies behind these solutions strive to make their offerings the best within their respective categories and sectors. And, to achieve this, they must invest significant time and resources into innovation. However, that is not the reality for many companies.

We recently connected with Shiva Nathan, Founder and CEO of Onymos — the developer of the world’s first Features-as-a-Service platform — to discuss why companies are wasting valuable time and resources on maintenance rather than software and application innovation.

Shiva has worked in the software development space for more than twenty years at companies like Intuit and Oracle. He has seen first-hand the impact that the lack of innovation can have on the success of software and applications in the market.

Thank you, Shiva, for talking with us today. Before we jump in, can you share a bit of your background with our readers?

Thank you. I have worked my entire career at various software companies — Intuit, Oracle, CA — prior to founding Onymos in 2017. What propelled me to start Onymos was a common trend I noticed in each company I worked with, engineering teams were constantly re-creating the wheel and maintaining those applications.

When I refer to “re-creating the wheel,” I am talking about the repetitive process my teams went through each time a new version of our software or application was required. This meant we were constantly rebuilding the software or application from the foundation on up, and then integrating the new features, functionality or user interfaces on top of that. This process is not only time-consuming but completely monotonous. Who wants to constantly redo all of the work they have previously done?

I also realized we were spending all of our time maintaining our software and applications each time various operating systems released new versions and updates, or when vulnerabilities were found. This added up to hours and hours of work each week, and combined with the constant rebuilding we were doing, it left very little time for ideation and innovation.

After coming to this realization, I thought there had to be a better way. From my perspective, that way is providing engineering teams with the foundations they need to build amazing and inventive software and applications that are frictionless, secure, and don’t require a lot of upkeep.

We want to talk a bit more about the time and resources you’ve seen companies spend on software and application development. What do the numbers look like?

Great question. We recently conducted research in this area, surveying more than 100 software and application development leaders. Our research found that nearly 30% of leaders said that it takes four to six months for their engineering teams to develop a new web or mobile application from scratch, and another quarter (28%) said it takes seven months to more than a year. Almost half (43%) of leaders also reported that their teams spend more than 40% of their time on maintenance.

Just looking at those numbers alone, you can get a pretty good sense of how much time they have for innovation. In fact, our research found that almost 70% of leaders were dissatisfied with the amount of time their engineering team had for innovation.

There has also been other research from firms like McKinsey that show how much burden falls on companies with technical debt. Some CIOs have reported that more than 20% of their technical budget is diverted away from new product development to resolve issues related to technical debt. These same CIOs also estimated that technical debt amounted to 20-40% of the value of their entire technology estate.

This, combined with the time spent on maintenance, should raise alarm bells for companies.

In relation to maintenance and technical debt, what are engineering teams actually addressing?

We have to look at maintenance and technical debt as two separate activities.

When I think of maintenance, this is anything pertaining to any integrations and operating systems updates software or applications require. These integrations range from cloud storage to hardware, to payments. Each integration provider must update their software, applications, and devices regularly to address bugs, security, and many other aspects, and that means so do the enterprises that integrate their offerings into other software and applications. All parties also must update their offerings each time operating system updates occur from Apple, Android, etc.

To put that into perspective, Apple has made 22 updates to iOS 16 so far. That is 22 distinct instances where every company with software and applications running on iOS had to make updates to ensure they worked properly and remained secure. All of this work and time adds up.

There is always a race among enterprises to bring their software and applications to market faster. However, doing so often results in technical debt — especially when low-code or no-code solutions are being leveraged. Once software and applications hit the market, they often require additional development work to address workaround code that no longer works. And, because enterprises are always in competition, this technical debt continues to accumulate over time as they release updated versions. This eventually becomes a major burden on engineering teams.

As enterprises are constantly working to launch the best software and applications into the market at the fastest rate, they are likely accruing technical debt each and every time they bring a new or updated offering to market. This is particularly true if they are relying on low-code or no-code solutions as workarounds that enable them to get to market faster. These solutions typically don’t offer engineering teams the ability to customize the code to their exact specifications, which results in the code becoming obsolete down the line and the accrual of technical debt. Because of this, engineering teams must address the obsolete workaround code to ensure their software and applications continue to function properly.

You have painted a pretty distinct picture of the challenges enterprise software development teams are facing. How can enterprises address these challenges and empower their teams to innovate?

Enterprises can ignite innovation and address these challenges by rethinking their development approaches. One way in which some enterprises are doing so is by taking a pro-code approach through Features-as-a-Service (FaaS).

FaaS facilitates an agile and accelerated engineering process for enterprises but without the limitations and challenges associated with the popular low-code and no-code methodologies. It specifically ensures that quality, code integrity, security, development timelines, and budgets remain uncompromised. It enables engineering teams to leverage pre-coded “commodity” features — like log-in, payments, location, cloud connection, and more. Not only are these features maintained by the provider offering them, their security is continually reinforced and their code can be updated by the engineering teams using them. What’s even more important to note is that FaaS also enables enterprises to retain data ownership. This means that none of the enterprise's data — or that of their customers — passes through or is saved in any systems tied to the FaaS provider. 

By leveraging FaaS, enterprises can provide their engineering teams with ample time to ideate and innovate as well as expedite their development cycles from months to weeks. Additionally, this approach minimizes backend complications for development teams in the future, limits maintenance upkeep, and helps them maintain security and privacy.

FaaS is definitely a promising solution to the challenges in software and application development. With new approaches like this, where do you see development heading in the future?

I believe that approaches, such as FaaS, will empower enterprises to put the power of innovation back in the hands of their development teams. This will help to improve overall satisfaction among engineering teams because they will no longer be required to address maintenance and technical debt at such large scales. I know, personally, as a software engineer that I did not like working on these tasks. They made the hours spent at work monotonous and extremely frustrating because I wanted to use my skills to be more creative and help contribute to innovation.

About Shiva Nathan

A seasoned technology executive and entrepreneur, Shiva Nathan draws upon his experience as a software innovator to empower businesses to reach their mobile-first digital goals. He currently serves as the Founder and CEO of Onymos, creator of the world's first Features-as-a-Service platform. As the former head of Intuit’s Platform & Services organization, his organization defined the cloud-hosted services-based unified technology platform that Intuit’s line of products like TurboTax and Quickbooks leveraged. He has also held technical and leadership positions at Oracle and CA. He understands what it takes to build robust, powerful apps that serve a broad customer base—and how to avoid the roadblocks that can get in the way.

More about Shiva Nathan

About Onymos

Onymos is the developer of the world’s first Features-as-a-Service (FaaS) platform, which enables companies in various industries — including retail, healthcare, delivery, digital media, and entertainment — to achieve unmatched speed, quality, and value in their web, mobile, and Internet of Things (IoT) application development and innovation. This pro-code platform has over 20 foundational app features, including DocKnow, Login, Edge, Notifications, and more. These features can be easily added to new or existing applications and include security, multiple framework support, assistance with compliance requirements, the underlying logic that runs on the device, the server-side functions and integrations that process and store data in the cloud, and continuous updates. The Onymos FaaS platform is trusted by top brands, including Albertsons, CVS, and Walmart.

To know more about www.onymos.com