A simple calculation on how Tech can save the world.

By building better products and reduce the waste

Roughly half of the features in tech products are never used, or used very rarely. In simple words, the effort to build them is just waste. [1]

There are around 25 million direct productive software engineers in the world. [2]

As a rule of thumb, the development accounts for only one-third of the budget in software projects. It means that COGS (cost of goods sold) is three time bigger than the cost of development.

For the sake of calculation (not for accuracy) let’s suppose a median of $80k cost per FTE per year. Worldwide.

Waste = COGS x 0.5
COGS = 25 million x $80k x 3

Waste Value = $3 trillion

So that, we are spending three trillion dollars on no user-value each year.

According to IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) we have to spend between $1.6 trillion and $3.8 trillion per year until 2050 to limit the global warming at 1.5 degrees Celsius. [3]

⇒ tech waste $ ≈ carbon stop $

So yes, we can stop the global warming only by building better tech products.

Better = products that deliver real user and business value. Or, what the people need and use, not what the people want and not use.

How can be done? This is another story, a story for us, Product Management and UX guilds.

Yes, this is an oversimplification. But sometimes, to understand complex concepts we need to oversimplify. It’s like the Schrödinger’s cat experiment: it doesn’t explain the quantum mechanics but it helps me to understand.

No, this is not an academic paper, neither a feasible proposal. Is just an out of the box thinking exercise that popped in the professional part of my brain when I was thinking on why is so hard to create simple and meaningful products.

[1] There is a lot of debate around this statement that was initially made by Jim Johnson from Standish Group at XP Conference in 2002 (his estimation was 64%). Since then, there were some other studies that put the low-engaged features between 45% and 80%. The number lacks a lot in terms of methodology or statistical relevance, but let’s face it, why would somebody insert a video in a Word document?

[2] More details here and here. The number is almost even split between Asia-Pacific and EMEA-Americas.

[3] Nobody can rely it as a business plan. Is just an estimation. Morgan-Stanley says it could be $50 trillion by 2050, an UN scientist promises some effects with a mere of $300 billion.