What’s the difference between “software-led” and “using software”?

by Andrew A. Radin

Ask an automotive engineer to improve passenger safety and they will invent features like seat belts, airbags and anti-lock brakes. Ask a software engineer to improve passenger safety and they will replace the driver with sensors and software.

The power of software-led projects goes beyond the use case of self-driving cars. Uber and Lyft are using software to revolutionize the transportation industry. Zenefits is dramatically simplifying HR services and compliance with their software-centric approach. At twoXAR, we believe a software-driven approach will dramatically improve how new medicines are discovered.

It’s important to understand the difference between “using software” and “software-led”. Yellow Cab in San Francisco recently filed for bankruptcy while Uber and Lyft grow seemingly unbounded. Does Yellow Cab use software? Absolutely. You can hail a yellow cab on your mobile phone using YoTaxi. Is Yellow Cab a software-led organization? It seems not. Their operational focus is on maintaining and servicing their fleet. Could Yellow Cab have adopted a ride-sharing world view and transformed itself to compete with the new standard of hired rides with software?

Through our work at twoXAR, we are often exposed to IT and bioinformatics divisions within large biopharmaceutical companies. What we’ve learned is that these teams often serve primarily as a resource to the R&D organization, but don’t lead the research themselves. Sound familiar?

The current intersection of software and drug discovery is extremely exciting. Time to market, cost of development, and drug pricing are all areas where technology can dramatically change the status quo. The industry acknowledges that there is room for big changes using software-led approaches and our team is working to bring our version of the self-driving car to the drug discovery industry.