Why Enterprise Software Sucks

In my previous post 'For who do we design our software solutions?' I mentioned that we might be building the software for the decision maker. It interesting to read that Jason at 37 Signals thinks the same.... Those interested in user interfaces for business application also might want to check out the post Business application UIs matter…to users

For who do we design our software solutions?

Recently I compared my iPhone with the HTC Touch and concluded that the User Experience of the iPhone is in another league. It's Microsoft versus Apple in creating a User Experience, and for those that use Windows Vista, just have a look at what Mac OS 10.5 "Leopard." has to offer from next Friday. This made me think, why come excellent User Experiences with Apple naturally and is it very difficult for Microsoft? Since I work in the business software industry an answer is important, because it might help to deliver better products. It took some time, but I might have found the answer.

The title of this post already gives it away, who do we design the software for? Is it the end user that is using the software on a day to day basis or is it for the decision maker that decides to buy the software from you? For consumer goods, most Apple products, both are usually the same. Apple wants you to dribble over their latest products in the Apple shop and make and instant decision. In business software the process is different and the product development is often driven based on features requested from customers and prospects. Unfortunately these features are not requested by the actual end users, but by managers, control freaks or other decision makes. This is for me the most obvious explanation why business software is feature overloaded and difficult to use. It's just not build for giving an excellent user Experience. It's build to meet to tick the checkboxes during a sales process.

The result of this process is a happy sales person because the deal is done, a happy decision maker because he covered his ass with all the checkboxes ticked and a frustrated end user that is forced to use a solution that is not designed to give an excellent experience. We might think, it doesn't matter... but actually it does.. up until recently reference customers where represented by the above mentioned decision makers, but today with the emerge of social computing the word of mouth takes a different dimension. The actual end user has a voice, and with so many of them...even a very strong voice...

It's time to design business solution for the end user... design for maximum happiness... it will pay off over time...

Innovation & Business Cases

I work in a creative and inspirational environment that daily produces new innovative ideas. This is great, but also brings 2 challenges
  • Which ideas are worth investments in time and resources? This is usually determined based on gut feeling, combined with the long term company strategy, competitive analysis and end user benefits. This is not an exact science, it's often a risk, but as a 'Design thinker' I embrace the risk. The real risk is not failing, but it's not trying. The selected ideas now are materialized into concrete concepts and prototypes.
  • How to move ideas from innovation into production? This is a much harder task, because production is all about doing business as usual, avoiding risks and following well defined patterns. Return on the investment, described in a business case is often the source for making decisions. This is absolutely true for product improvements and extensions with a direct link to customer expectation and market demand, but it's different for innovative and possible disruptive ideas. Some people say: sell the idea to the business talking their language! I agree, but this very quickly this leads back to a business case designed to avoid risk. It's much more efficient if the 'Design thinkers' tell a story to convince the business owners to write and take ownership of the business case.

Inspirational additional reading

Microsoft ISV - Platform Strategy Review 2007

The last 2 days I spend a the Microsoft campus for a Platform Strategy Reviews specially designed for ISV's. It was an NDA event and I don't want to get into trouble ;-) but still a few observations:
  • The surface computer is very cool... especially if you see it live in action
  • MS does invest heavily in the cloud, but seems to have difficulties to make choices
  • 64bit is the only way forward.. many next gen. server products will be 64bit only.
  • Office Business Applications, the MS answer for corporate Mash ups, but more likely a way to protect the Office Client
  • Very inspiring presentation on different business models from license, advertisement to subscription and transactions based. It's good to see the MS is learning not to only focus on technology
  • MS on mobility... MS is a complex company, so are their Mobile solutions... see also: Apple iPhone versus HTC Touch

Apple iPhone versus HTC Touch

A few weeks ago I bought an Apple iPhone and right from the first second I was impressed. This is a new standard in phones. I always hated smart phones, because they just couldn't do what you really wanted. Now with full Safari on the iPhone this all changed. After I bought the phone that doesn't come with a real manual it took me about an hour to jailbreak and unlock it for my European SIM.

Yesterday I got an HTC Touch, Microsoft's pride for Windows Mobile 6. It's a nice little phone with a good form factor... but it does come with a CD size, 1cm thick manual... and I needed 2 hours to get it to work. The number of options and settings are just too much. Where Apple can fit everything on 1 screen I'm constantly lost on the HTC.

Shortly after these experiences I spoke to someone who also knows both phones... His take on it: Apple is just 3 years ahead... and well in 3 years they will again be 3 years ahead

GLC Malta 2007

I just returned tired but very motivated from Malta. It was 4 days with motivating, challenging en inspiring presentations and workshops. I also had the opportunity to add my 2 cents ;-). It was interesting to read that many of the issues we are dealing with are also on others agendas 'The Power of "we"'

More images

Next to the 'Official' program there was plenty of time to meet coworkers and have fun!
The event was excellent, compliments and thanks to the organization.

Global Leader Convention - Malta 2007

Today the GLC Malta officially starts. All company leaders worldwide come together to enjoy sessions on various parts of the business, network and of course have fun. The setting is excellent, nice hotel, some sunshine. I just enjoyed the pool... a last refreshment b4 we start..

Breaking down barriers

Next week I'm involved in an important internal conference and while preparing my presentation I run into some interesting slide shows. One was about increased productivity that the recent Web 2.0 tools can bring. I use them frequently and agree on the information transparency and ease of collaboration, but as a side effect..... there are also many people that prefer to see them as dangers.... when collaborating on the web you aren't working....

I realized that I need to be an example.. so I will start blogging about my job.. and progress when breaking down the barriers..... For your entertainment... the slide show....

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Corporate culture changes

Most people in an organization are busy with 'today's business as usual', it's important because it's all about next quarters bottom line. Of course there is also people, like me, involved in longer term future initiatives. I've learned that it's not always easy to understand and communicate with eachother, alway believing that it was related to different priorities. Recently after reading 'Busyness vs. Bursty' I realized that it's also a cultural thing. It's necessary to spend more time on educating people on the upcoming changes..... of how we work...

We need to become Knowledge Workers 2.0... as show pretty well in the slide show below..

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