Monday, November 14, 2011

Succinct, Simple, Software making sense

As I reflect back upon my last 3 years at a fortune 50 company performing various marketing oriented tasks, I realize how much time is spent on training people how to use newly introduced software.

If you consider the impact of time loss revenue for derailing your entire staff to learn a piece of software that may or may not become part of the daily regime,  you often have to think - aren't computers supposed to make things easier?

I mean honestly - lets take into consideration project management software.  We've used all sorts of software to accomplish this job of managing projects from JIRA to an excel spreadsheet - All for figuring out deadlines, generating reports, and generally tracking what in the hell it is that people are doing.

Yet year after year, corporations spend [[big money]] dedicating resources to managing projects.

Wait a second, lets 2 steps back here.. Lets think about the history of software in general.  We've gone from DOS prompts to fancy drag/drop gui interfaces which were designed to make our tasks easier while using a computer.  It used to be, I'd type in a command on a screen, and my computer would perform something.  Back then the interfaces were primarily text based, on limited real estate and very rarely had any sort of graphical interfaces.  Now, we have triple-head HD monitors at super high resolutions and commodity computers that were once considered super-computing.  As computers have progressed so has the complexity of software user interfaces.  Gone are the days where I could keep my hands on "home-row" and actually accomplish tasks.

And with that in mind lets talk about "industry standard" project management software.  Why is such a simple thing such as logging your tasks - such a painful endeavor?   Why not just make it accessible, easy and make sense?

If you look at these beautiful yet convoluted interfaces to software like JIRA, AtTASK, and more - we find that in order for us to simply enter a new task in we have to be on a specific screen, with specific rights - Oh, and make sure we click the right buttons to actually get to the right editing mode.  Suddenly we are trying to just update our project with comments, yet we've replied to the entire workforce.  Lost in a world of cumbersome processes we are.

Suddenly massively expensive project management software gets phased out and we all suddenly realize all we needed for our requirements was to use some sort of open source wiki project.

Why does this happen?  Because the software market in general has become so concerned with adding in features that sparkle and glitter that the simplicity of software has died.  For people concerned with project management, this means money is "lost" on training and convincing everybody on the team that it's the "right thing to do" ..   Intentions were good, the idea behind it is dead on yet - it doesn't make sense and after your license is up with these fine folks when you're asking why you didn't just use this wiki to begin with?

I'll take this one step further - Mobile is going to make software companies rethink how their software is used.  We're back again to the days of limited real estate, limited input options.  Suddenly its all about being succinct, and simple again.  Strangely enough - this makes sense.

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