It works, but…

…we ain’t get it working. I am evenly impressed about Apple and disappointed about a lot of other technology solutions I’m working with. I have been working in sales functions for technology most of my life but recently switched sides implementing technology. The gap between what technologies can do and what can be executed is bigger than ever before.

Sales people in the technology field have an image of over promising and under delivering. Some may think of them as being crooks that just want to get the best of their clients, their money. I don’t think that this is really the case.

There are plenty of reasons why users and customers of large pieces of technology cannot make it work. Resistances to change, technophobia among others make it hard to deliver technology. But more often than not it is just the complexity of new features that is making any effort fail.

From a sales perspective, technology can do a lot. Sales people are very happy for each additional feature and piece of functionality that is being added to the product. It gives them more to sell, more stuff that works.

With this increased functionality comes normally more complexity and with that difficulty on executing and delivering those functions to the end users. Some companies go always back to the drawing board and really have a deep look at how they can make their products easier to implement, providing standard templates or configurations that just work. This is actually what makes the Microsoft office line so strong or the Apple IPhone so successful. I believe that MS-Office from its very first windows version kept the learning curve that is needed to make use of it about the same while continuously adding new features and functionality.

Other technology vendors just don’t go the last mile. ERP vendors provide web service technologies, but do not provide standard applications that can utilize these platforms. Right now I’m dealing with an ERP package that great web service capability but no standard applications. It theoretically works to integrate directly into UPS Worldship, but I cannot make it work. I’m wondering when they recognize that there are only three or four major LTL Express carriers on the world market, and that they actually could have standard configurations that would work with very minimal changes.

This is not only the case with LTL shipments. I recently had a conversation with a friend of mine that works for the German business software company SAP in their business-by-design division. This is SAP’s attempt to crack into the SaaS market. He said, that during an implementation, the can integrate seamlessly the entire product catalogue of Office Depot and Staples (which I think cover more than 705 of the office supply market in the US) into the business application. Create the link, enter your account info and your procurement people can start purchasing from the entire office depot catalogue without setting up a single product code and a single price. They get it working; they get it delivered to their customers.

How many options do you think are out there to get driving directions to a client? If your software package would provide one as a standard, would you care if it is mapquest, google maps or yahoo maps? Anyway, how big are the variances between them in for the users as well as for the integrator?

I think that software companies are too much focused on creating technology but not so much about delivering it. I think that software development needs less coding and more configuration and standards to make us use the technology better and gain the ROI we expect from such projects. Some companies take a lead doing this, some consulting business even make a living of it. These companies are being richly rewarded while those that don’t will ultimately pay the steepest price possible.

If you are in the market of buying a new piece of technology, make sure that it not only works, make sure that they make it work.

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