Guest Column with Charles D. Morgan: April 2022
Updated: Apr 20, 2022
THE DOMINO EFFECT OF INFLATION
It puts technology, and tech workers, in a very strong position
Charles D. Morgan
CEO of First Orion, and Chairman, ACDS
THE WORD INFLATION is universally detested, because it means prices are shooting skyward for homemakers and business leaders alike. Right now in the U.S., we’re experiencing the most serious inflation that this country has seen in half a century. Most people today don’t even remember that time, so this is a whole new reality to them. I, unfortunately, do remember the inflation of the 1970’s, and I’ve been trying, both personally and professionally, to apply some of the counter-measures that I recall from way back then.
But I also know, from my many decades as an entrepreneur, that adversity usually brings opportunity, and in this time of rapidly rising inflation, I believe there’s excellent opportunity for people in the tech industry today.
What happens during periods of inflation? All kinds of domino effects kick in. Businesses focus on driving costs out of ongoing operations, because talented employees are now more expensive. In today’s world, cutting costs puts a premium on technology. Whether you’re trying to make your product easier to build, test, or distribute, technology can help streamline those processes and reduce their costs. Of course, you’ve got to build the technology to bring about those savings, and what does building that technology do? It further drives up wages of tech workers.
So while inflation’s domino effects continue to take on ever-looping lives of their own, I’m saying that tech companies and tech talent are better off than those in any other industry during periods of serious inflation. If you’re the manager of a business and you’re in desperate need of a Cost Buster, the question is clear: Who you gonna call?
JUST A LITTLE over a year ago, I noted in this very newsletter that technology was already moving quickly into automation. “There are some underlying trends that are happening that are more subtle than revolutionary,” I said, in a January 2021 interview. “We’re beginning to layer our software technology so that it becomes easier and easier to deploy Cloud solutions. We’re going to an API-driven world where everything can be driven through API connections. So we can build more and more complex things in fewer and fewer man hours, and this functionality can be shared by many, many more people. In the first iteration of the
Cloud, you just got a raw data center. Now you can build an exactly tailored data center by checking a bunch of boxes to create the needed functionality. It will create all your back-up and recovery and all the software modules you need—standard software. And in a blink, you’ve got something that might have taken six months to create in the old world of physical hardware.”
At my company, First Orion, we use all kind of tools to help us with software development and testing and distribution. JFrog is a technology we use to help package, test, and be certain that the technology we create doesn’t have viruses in it. Another support technology we use is called PagerDuty, which allows us to alarm everything. You don’t want dozens of people having to watch over every system in your operation—especially today—and PagerDuty will help monitor any kind of system. Online systems are generally where you see it, but not necessarily; it can monitor batch reports or anything else. If something goes wrong, you want to know about it before the customer does, before it causes a problem. So PagerDuty allows you to put alarms on virtually everything. If the report parameters aren’t
jiving with the norm, PagerDuty lets you know so you can notify the appropriate people, and notify them in many different ways. You can send them a text message, or you can send them an email. In our case, we can send them a Teams message.
Stripe is a software-as-a-service technology for building better billing and charging systems. Every business wants its customers to be able to charge goods and services on their credit cards, and Stripe offers a whole family of APIs that make credit card charges a lot easier. Stripe is what we call an “enabling technology,” which is a rapidly growing field. It’s a huge business these days, helping business customers handle the billing and charging and credit approval for their potential users.
Another example of enabling technology is one we’re building at First Orion. It’s no secret that the rise of scammers and spammers and spoofers have made telephone usage difficult for everybody, and our branded calling solution is a response to that. We’re about to announce a first-generation plan whereby even small businesses can enable their communications systems, allowing their employees to talk with their customers by ensuring that the calls from those employees will be “branded.” By that, I mean even if the call recipient doesn’t have caller ID on their phone, it will show that Charles Morgan is calling from First Orion. So if I’m calling one of our customers, or I’m calling one of our employees who doesn’t have me in their contacts, they’ll know it’s me calling. Again, this is another enabling technology aimed at helping businesses by solving a problem so they don’t have to figure out how to solve it themselves. Incidentally, we’re taking it a step further by building a capability to allow you to pre-text or post-text your customers and employees. “Hey, I’m about to call you.” Or, “Hey, I just called you and you didn’t answer.”
Our branded calling solutions are made possible by the enhancing technology of a company called DataBrick. It’s an integrated technology that pulls together a number of other existing technologies, and, at the same time, DataBrick’s enhancements to the integration make building large-scale complex applications easier than ever before.
THERE WILL BE companies that go under due to inflation, primarily because they’re in the wrong field. But for any existing tech company or would-be tech entrepreneur, this is a time of great possibility. The main reason I became an engineer was because I love solving complex problems, which at the time I thought would be through the application of my mechanical engineering skills, and probably in the automotive realm. Then, fortunately, I pivoted to the relatively new field of “computer systems engineer” and discovered the miraculous problem-solving capabilities of computer technology.
For tech companies and tech talent alike, this is a time to stand back and look at the world and identify the problems that need solving. The problem you solve, the cost you cut, the efficiency you bring about—it just may turn out to become your future.