Software sucks…a lot of the time

by admin on December 10, 2007

in Featured,General,Innovation


Robert Scoble manages to get a bunch of us chattering about why enterprise software isn’t sexy. Along with a number of my enterprise colleagues, I’ve had a crack at Robert’s argument. Truth is, most software isn’t meant to be sexy, it’s meant to get a job done. The two don’t always go hand in hand.

Even so, I was particularly drawn to Susan Scrupski’s take which isn’t getting the attention it deserves in my opinion. Among other things, Susan says:

I’ve been wrestling with wretched old-school health forms all afternoon that will undoubtedly be, um, input or maybe scanned into some old-school enterprise system that will carefully set up my health insurance for 2008. If it weren’t Sunday, I probably could do some digging and figure out exactly what the “business process” is that will determine my paper-input-to-digital-imprint record through the labyrinth of enterprise systems. Will an outsourced provider be involved? Probably. A mainframe? Probably. A large-scale database? Oh yeah.

Have I enjoyed this process today? No. Was I able to customize my health insurance policy and my coverage according to my particular family’s health situation? Not in a 2.0 way. Was I able to choose a health insurance company by my review of doctors online and get recommendations from other insureds about which health insurance companies actually paid claims on time and answered questions with friendly, caring concern? Well, definitely not.

Thinking about accounting software: it’s pretty much OK these days, odd bugs aside. The trouble is it’s been built for accountants and not for end users. It’s designed with the book-keeper mentality in mind yet many packages are positioned as ‘easy to use’ but aren’t – unless you’ve had 3-4 years training. Many will argue: ‘So what?’ It maintains the mystique of double entry. That’s one of the reasons I got involved with FreeAgent. Even so, the developers are finding themselves being drawn into accounting style thinking. That’s because we’re needing to meet the requirements of two distinct constituencies. That’s not easy to parse.

The conversation moved to the Twitterstream with folks like Luis Suarez, Stephan from AcidLabs and Ed Yourdon picking up the beat, claiming that the next generation of users will drive change. I’ve said much the same thing in the past but I am less hopeful than I was say a year ago. Even as recent as October, I questioned whether the profession really has a grip on understanding the changes which are coming at them. If my most recent experience on Web 2.0 style projects is a measure, then the answer is: ‘very slowly.’

I still look at GreeDotLife and fret over the kinds of business leaders we’re creating.

Illo courtesy of Susan.

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