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05/03/2013

Why business software sucks (or why spreadsheets are everywhere)

According to a famous post by Jason Fried, enterprise software (ERP, CRM, ecc) is often a disappointment with respect to other applications for personal use. Fried states that the main reason for this is that enterprise software is bought by people that don't use it or use it rarely. Others have contributed to this subject along the years adding other reasons. But a recent post by Chris Dixon on what smart people do in their weekends makes me think that maybe the main reason why the enterprise software is so far from users' needs is another: enterprise software is not used by people who develop it. In other words: usually who develops an operating system for smartphones also owns a smartphone with that operating system. The developers of a text editor also use it for their activities, know for sure what can be improved and do improve it. But people who code a supply chain management software how many supply plans have prepared with it? And let's make it clear: testing the software doesn't mean using it. For example: if the software lets me accomplish some transaction in some seconds, the developer's tests are passed but the user may be frustrated because he does the same operation many times in a day loosing a lot of his time. In a company the users try to overcome the limits of enterprise software by using spreadsheets and, also with their drawbacks, these allow them to be more confortable with the tools they use. The idea behind 'use the software you make' is not only behind the proliferation of spreadsheets but is also one of the propulsive forces of open source software. You need a software with certain features but you cannot find exactly what you want or it costs too much with respect to the part of that software that you really need: in this case you could develop it by your own or collaborating with other people around the world, motivated and skilled on the same subject matter. What is important to stress is that nowadays the open source software provides good solutions in many domains and building something is getting easier and easier because of the great availability of components.