Nov 112010
A history of Complexity Science.
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In the enterprise, simplicity simply doesn’t sell.

Complexity, on the other hand, justifies costly software licenses and a swat team of consultants and systems integrators. It explains why updates are available every three years instead of being pushed weekly. And it even serves as an easy – but ultimately blameless – scapegoat for failed deployments and lagging user adoption. After all, the problems faced by today’s enterprises are incredibly challenging, and complex problems require equally complex solutions, right?

Wrong. This mindset needs to change – in fact, in order to survive, enterprise software must become simpler. Consumers are bringing new technology and expectations into the workplace where, more often than not, they’re forced to work with and around legacy platforms that disable rather than enable productivity. Simplicity will become the most important factor in business technology’s success, and to get there it can no longer be a dirty word in the enterprise. But it’s going to require some serious effort on the part of vendors and buyers alike.

We don’t want complexity, but don’t know how to value simplicity

While I deeply respect and admire the many innovations brought about by legacy solutions, the current state of technology in the enterprise kind of sucks. There’s a reason why a Google search returns more than 2 million results for “I hate Lotus.” Complexity is the culprit, and it takes many forms: tedious processes for common tasks like HR and expense reports, inability to collaborate beyond the firewall without IT intervention, and information silos without any security rationale. Not to mention the bad UI, error messages, upgrade failures, and downtime that users and IT departments contend with on a daily basis. And while no one explicitly desires cumbersome technology, we keep buying it because we’ve built a strong correlation between the number of features a solution has and the likelihood it will solve our problem. That, and you won’t get fired. While building or adopting the most feature-rich service looks great on paper, in practice it means that customers have signed themselves up for technology that can never be upgraded, unhappy end-users, and (paradoxically) inertia to move off tools that required so much time to implement and experts to maintain.

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