Should business software be sexy?

By admin, December 13, 2007 8:47 am

I have been meaning, for the past several days, to come up with some insightful and unique take on the brouhaha that erupted last weekend over who in the blogosphere "understood" enterprise software, and whether or not that software should be made "sexy."

But as I go into what promises to be my fourth 14+ hour day in a row fixing difficult problems at various clients which have arisen out of needlessly arcane and complex software packages, I have decided to aim a little lower: this stuff needs to just work before anyone starts wasting time sexing it up.

Don't get me wrong, I am down with Scoble and his posse when it comes to making business applications attractive to users; that's exactly the sort of thing I am talking about when I talk about putting resources into design and implementation instead of training. Make software that people want, even need, and you have gone a long way toward addressing some of the most significant obstacles to IT system function in the enterprise.

But I'm also sympathetic to Krigsman and his krew; there are some different priorities and objectives associated with enterprise software which sometimes take precedence over sexiness. But the fact is that quite a lot of enterprise software fails to achieve even those basics. Thus my long, long days helping clients figure out why their CRM package just freezes, simultaneously, on every computer in the department, for up to ninety seconds, and why Symantec Enterprise A/V (yes, I'm naming names on this one, because their implementation is so terrible and their support so inadequate and clueless) either fails to download a simple anti-virus update signature file at all, or instead floods the Internet connection repeatedly downloading the same file.

You don't have to tell me that some of this stuff has to be complicated, that it's doing difficult things in unusual environments. But some of it doesn't have to be complicated, and even complex systems can be elegant (see April 26th entry), and I would far prefer that-at least at first-to sexy.

Enterprise developers have a long way to go before shooting for sexy; they should concentrate first on just turning out stuff that manages to not be ugly.

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