In short, undifferentiated heavy lifting is everything that an application needs to do but doesn’t increase its competitive advantage in the eyes of its customers. It can be extremely difficult and crucial things like managing servers for a scaling applications or authentication security. But from a customer’s perspective, as long as the application works quickly and securely, they don’t really care what your cloud infrastructure looks like.
The term has been heavily used in software development but I think it can be expanded to broad functions of a company. For non-software development, there still exists a ton of undifferentiated heavy lifting: invoicing, multi channel management, content creation, people management, scheduling etc. Undifferentiated heavy lifting doesn’t mean that it’s not important or not consequential – it’s crucial but everyone has to do it well to even compete!
Even when I think of the small (but growing!) enterprise of Automate All the Things! Its core goal (today!) is to provide you an entertaining stream and a newsletter every week. What I say and write every week are the differentiated heavy lifting
(doesn’t mean that it’s always good!). Everything else doesn’t matter to you.
Now think of everything that comes with that goal: managing aatt.io,
syncing my content across multiple platforms (thanks to Parabola
), all of the infrastructure in sending this email, managing questions from multiple channels, stream quality etc. etc. And this platform is free!
Software generally has always is in the business of solving every company’s undifferentiated heavy lifting. It’s why software is eating the world: when you look at a business, very little of it is truly differentiated work (and why they should spend so much time making sure to preserve it)! That leaves a lot of space for companies to solve everything else. However, just like in the case of software development, outsourcing to different vendors creates a whole new set of problems: how do we have all of these vendors play nice and communicate to each.
I think this is where no-code comes in: it can help you create apps that manage most of your undifferentiated heavy lifting in one type of application. Kills two birds with one stone: build better applications to handle your undifferentiated heavy lifting without multiplying tools. You still have the hurdle of building those applications but if you’re reading this newsletter, that hurdle probably doesn’t seem daunting to you.
I often get pitched new tools but before integrating any tool into my stack, I consider the following tiers:
Tier 1: your existing no-code tools (e.g. Airtable/retool/typeform etc.)
Tier 2: a vertical saas software that integrates with my no-code stack directly
Tier 3: vertical saas that integrates with my tier 1 tool through a third party
Tier 4: point solution that doesn’t integrate with my tool
Tier 5: custom build/code
I don’t think this can quite be generalized to businesses but I do hope we view no-code tools not as “things that plug the holes” but instead view vertical saas as the tools that plug holes when our no-code stack doesn’t suffice.