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Every time you turn around these days it feels like the latest smart phone has been released or a social media platform has found a new, exciting way to integrate video. Even as this piece is being written, some of our team are working on improving our online accounting software.

There is now software available to do just about anything you could want software to do.

At the heart of this, the ability to code is being championed as the new literacy. So, as a small business owner, should learning how to write code be priority number one?

Well, if you’re running a sole trader that’s developing software it’s probably necessary. Otherwise, there’s a multitude of coding languages you can choose from that will do different things. HTML, CSS and JavaScript will do for web development, but you may want to learn C++ or the handy PHP. That’s just the tip of the iceberg too. Sites like codeacademy will allow you to learn how to code in whatever language you want to pick up. What benefits can you expect after putting all that time in?

The Benefits

Perhaps the most relatable benefit to small business will be the ability to build and edit your own website, provided you learn the web development languages. Today, nearly every business has a website, no matter how simple it is. You can appreciate that it would be an advantage to be able to change the pricing on your website by yourself in a couple of minutes. The alternative would be to rely on and pay someone else to do it for you.

Coding improves your problem solving. Solving problems forms the basis for writing code. Software usually exists to do things that we don’t have the skills to do, or the time to do. In other words, at its most basic level, software solves problems for us as users. Learn how to code, in any language, and you will be better at solving problems not only for your business but in your day to day life too.

Learning how to code will mean you can develop or manipulate software for your business. You might code the next big social media platform and launch a completely new business venture. On the other hand, you might just learn enough to understand that certain parts of the software you’re already using in your business shouldn’t be messed around with. That can be pretty valuable too seeing as you might save yourself a few hours on the phone to support getting everything back to the way it was…if you get there at all.


Do these benefits really mean that knowing code is like knowing how to read and write? Here’s, a complicated question – how valuable is knowing how to read and write? Is writing valuable if you can’t think of anything to write? Would reading be worth adding to your skill set if no one in the history of the world had ever thought of anything worthy to write on a piece of paper?

Literacy is valuable because reading and writing are means of communicating and organising our thoughts and every single person has thoughts, not because making a mark on a page is a difficult feat.

Similarly with coding, why would you learn how to code applications if you weren’t able to think of project to build. Perhaps the word think is the wrong one, everyone can think of some software to develop with code. The humble calculator you find on your phone or desktop might be what you think to build.

However, would you be able to map out how that calculator will work in each eventuality of its use and how all of the different actions that a user can take will work together? That is computational thinking and you don’t need to know how to write lines of code to do something like that. Computational thinking is all about understanding how things work, and how they might not work the way they are supposed to.

If you can think computationally, learning how coding has just become what writing is to communicating thoughts, valuable as an extension of something else. Maybe coding isn’t exactly the new literacy then, and you shouldn’t be rushing off to dedicate your free time to learning different languages of code on a whim. What we will say though, is that coding is an extremely valuable skill and no one should ever be negative about anyone trying to better themselves. If you have a reason and use for it, and the time, it can be a great advantage for you as a business person.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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