Regular readers will notice that I regularly rally against a number of different software products and platforms. It’s not necessarily that I think they’re (intentionally) evil (well, at least not in most cases), but that they commit one or more of the seven deadly software sins and perpetuate myths over reality, which helps no one. So what are the software sins? And why are they dangerous? Let’s answer these questions once and for all.
This is the notion that software can be “packaged”, sold, and never touched again. No software is bug free, no software can be configured for every possible platform, no integration works issue free out of the box, and every piece of software ever written has a shelf life, which gets shorter by the year. Thinking you can sell a piece of software, install it, and be done with it for however long finance says your customers can “amortize” the license cost is delusional. That’s why I like SaaS, and, more specifically, the pay-as-you-go software model. Especially in business, we have to start treating information technology as a utility, because that’s what it has to become to be truly useful.
- “The Cloud”
This is the notion that the cloud is a fluffy magic box that will solve all our problems, which it’s not. It’s simply another delivery model, where the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) provider outsources its infrastructure to an Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IAAS) provider who specializes in green data center management, leaving the SaaS provider to focus on its software strength.
They don’t call them idiot lights for fun! They call them that because dangerous and dysfunctional dashboards give you a false sense of security that the ship isn’t sinking when in fact it’s going down faster than Maury the Management Moron’s fraudulently expensed Thai “Masseuse” for his “stiff joint” because the idiot who configured the dangerous and dysfunctional dashboard thought that “pump performance” would be a better gauge than “water on board”.
- “Spreadsheets as BI”
Business Intelligence is the deep insight that can only be derived through a thorough and detailed multi-dimensional analysis of all relevant data through a true data analysis tool, not a wimpy two dimensional spreadsheet that only allows for a small number of statistical calculations and bland graphs. That’s why Excel is not a supply chain solution. It was designed to be a simple accounting tool, and that’s all it is. Trying to use it for more is just asking for disaster, as demonstrated by the fact that 90% of spreadsheets have non-trivial errors in them. Get a real e-Sourcing, e-Procurement, or Trade Data Management tool.
- “Sizzle over Substance”
It’s what the tool does, not how it looks. Just because the company in question hired a few Flash monkeys and integrated some animated charts and graphs doesn’t mean the tool does anything. In fact, if the capability is being promoted as a strong selling feature, I’d argue that the tool probably doesn’t do anything at all. Some of the best analysis tools in the space still use simple 8-bit Windows Interfaces built in Visual C and Visual Basic. They’re the best tools because, instead of wasting the last ten years redesigning the UI every year to look flashier, the developers spent the last ten years adding more analysis power, speed, and flexibility. If it sizzles, there’s no beef in that double cheese burger, just bacon. And you’ll be left hungry. Similarly, if the PowerPoint Rangers spent too much time on that presentation, ask yourself what the provider is trying to hide. If the solution is really great, the sales person won’t be able to get to the demo fast enough (because truly great software sells itself).
- “Social Networking”
This is where you build your offering around, or attempt to integrate with, social networking where it makes absolutely no sense to do so. Business is business, not fun. Plus, let’s look at the definition of social. Seeking or enjoying the companionship of other people. People! Not computers. And definitely not bots. You say you can tell the difference? Are you sure? Some of the chat bots are so good that it’s pretty hard to tell the difference between them and a r34l g4m3r that’ll p4wn ur @ss. In fact, if you administered the Turing Test, you’d probably choose the chat bot. Secondly, where’s the “networking”? How are you “networking” by farming someone’s virtual fields in cyberspace? Or poking them? Or by reading time-lagged status updates? You’re not. Thirdly, and most importantly, as it stands now, “social” networks are nothing more than a useless time suck. And, as a bonus, if you’re on Facebook, all your privacies are belong to us“. (Pop Culture Reference) See SI’s previous posts on Facebook for details. The reality is that, where networking and companionship is involved, you’re better off playing a MMORPG and joining The Guild. In fact, you’ll even learn collaboration skills, cultural sensitivity, project management, time management, and economics whereas most social networks won’t teach you a damn thing.
- “Alert Communication”
This is the asynchronous “communication” that Twitter purports to offer … but comments are not conversations! Furthermore, Twitter will make a twit out of you, literally, as a study has found that potheads are smarter than Twitterers. This also means that “sound bites” and pointless press releases add no value to your software.