The Explosion of On-Demand Services

I picked up a dresser from IKEA last month and was determined to put it together myself. Thirty minutes into the project, it was clear that my time was better spent on doing just about anything else. So I tapped the Task Rabbit app on my phone, and twenty minutes later Amanda, a Task Rabbit contractor, assembled my dresser quickly. It was a thing of beauty.

The on-demand craze has opened the door to real-time fulfillment of goods and services, which consumers have embraced with a frequency that is unprecedented, especially Millennials. Companies entering this space proclaim “We’re the Uber of (fill in the blank)!”

“I don’t go to the store anymore,” said Kara Swisher recently on her podcast Too Embarrassed to Ask, “I buy everything on demand.” And she’s not alone.

When we need to ride, we open the Uber or Lyft app on our phones and a driver shows up in minutes. If we need dinner quickly, there are plenty of delivery apps like Munchery, Sprig and GrubHub that deliver a ready-made meal right to our door.

Instant services have influenced how we conduct our everyday lives and even how we run our businesses. There is even an emerging trend—on demand software developers—beginning to enter this market.

Tread carefully here, my friends. Simply put, the on-demand economy is not the solution for the challenges in software development. Here’s why:

  • Developing modern software products is more complex than ever before. Experience counts.
  • Teams, not individuals, create high quality software products. To create software quickly you need an experienced team that is used to working together, not a mix of contractors with no cultural alignment, no consistent processes, and no long-term interest in you, your company, or your product.
  • Creating a quality software product for your customer’s is your lifeline with them, and with potential customers as well. A poor customer experience with your software doesn’t mean just one less customer, it means negative, inerasable reviews.Those reviews are so hard to recover from, even with the help of an expensive PR campaign.
  • Working in a distributed Agile development team with strong and action-orientated communicators is the way to develop software. With a consistent team in place, Software Development firms (like mine) can measure the productivity of the team. With Agile development, we can consistently review and improve team performance with sprint and code reviews.
  • Projects need strong analysts, strong architects with broad and deep experience and strong QA resources to increase the probability of success with distributed teams.
  • Simplicity of User Experience and User Interface is key to adoption of your software product.   If you do not have an experienced creative member of your team you risk a disjointed experienced that may not match the vision of your brand.
  • Project Leadership is also improved with experienced leaders and collaborative software systems that allow user story management, feature revision in an iterative fashion, planning, tasking, testing and delivery. These aspects of software delivery are challenged if you have random strangers working on your product.

“Companies that largely depend on on-demand, freelance workers cannot build culture on loyalty”, says Caroline Fairchild, New Economy Editor at LinkedIn “People that work for such companies lose intangible benefits of employment, such as making friends, expanding their skill set trough teamwork, sense of accomplishment trough collaboration and desire to contribute. People have intrinsic desire to belong to a community, and companies that do not foster these work relationship will not be successful in the long run.”

I rest my case.

Read Caroline Fairchild’s story Why These Startups Aren’t Betting on the Uberization of Work.


David Hickman is Menlo’s VP or Global Engineering and Deleivery. He has more than 30 years of experience in the IT industry, guiding cross-functional teams in the design and launch of complex technology and infrastructure solutions to meet global business, logistics, and financial needs.