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The Proliferation of Complexity

By Rana Gujral, CEO, TiZE

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Rana Gujral, CEO, TiZE

Enterprise software has failed us! For decades, vendors and consultants have claimed savings of 20- 30 percent with the implementation of offerings such as MRP, CRM, ERP, or a plethora of other offerings over the years. Far too many of these systems fail to realize the benefits that justified the initiative to begin with. Most companies embark upon the enterprise software implementation with big fan fare, company wide town-halls, memos, and armed with an army of consultants. After several months of implementation and hundreds and thousands of dollars spent, the majority of the workforce figures out a way to ‘bypass’ the system and its use is relegated to a handful of poor souls in the back-office departments.

Why does this happen? A study by Sand Hill Group shows that only 1 percent of potential users of the system cited the cause as a lack of software functionality. An overwhelming 70 percent cited usability and complexity as the main obstacle. Former NYTimes.com Design Director Khoi Vinh captured this common frustration in his seminal 2007 article, If It Looks Like a Cow, Swims Like a Dolphin and Quacks Like a Duck, It Must Be Enterprise Software, saying: "If you work at a big company and you’ve ever had to do something that should be simple, like file an expense report, make changes to your salary withholdings—or, heck, if you’ve ever tried to apply for a job at a big company—then you’ve probably encountered these con­founding user experiences. And you probably cursed out loud.”

 “Since Enterprise software has to work for a variety of companies, it’s designed as a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t actually fit anyone well.”

The problem is that enterprise software has to support very complex tasks Enterprise software has failed us! For decades, vendors and consultants have claimed savings of 20- 30 percent with the implementation of offerings such as MRP, CRM, ERP, or a plethora of other offerings over the years. Far too many of these systems fail to realize the benefits that justified the initiative to begin with. Most companies embark upon the enterprise software implementation with big fan fare, company wide town-halls, memos, and armed with an army of consultants. After several months of implementation and hundreds and thousands of dollars spent, the majority of the workforce figures out a way to ‘bypass’ the system and its use is relegated to a handful of poor souls in the back-office departments.

Why does this happen? A study by Sand Hill Group shows that only 1 percent, but software companies design it for a general audience, not for specific users. Since it has to work for a variety of companies, it’s designed as a one-size-fits-all solution that doesn’t actually fit anyone well.

A lot of the enterprise softwares were created a long time ago when there was not as much concern for the user experience. Now, customers demand a better quality experience, but with many existing customers, it’s difficult for enterprise software companies to do a complete redesign. And with little competition, customers don’t have much choice.

There is also a darker, ulterior motive behind this mess. Having many features allows enterprise software sales professionals to engage in a conversation that allows for incremental increases over time. Often enterprise software is tiered in a variety of ways in order to extract maximum revenue.

Companies find it easier to alter their work processes as fixing problems in enterprise software is extremely challenging. Through training and documentation, they try to alter their employees’ behavior to fit the flaws in the software. This is wrong and it needs to end.

Enterprise software used to be about making existing work more efficient. Today, the opportunity for software is to transform the work itself.  Here at TiZE we are passionate about this goal.  We are embarking on this journey with our industry specific solution for the ‘Specialty Chemicals’ industry based on an entirely new approach to software. The approach based on providing the simplest fit and function, combined with ease of use. As Bessemer Venture Partners state in their industry focus, occasionally technology is so revolutionary that it can transform the way an entire industry works. This is perhaps the most compelling opportunity ahead of us.           

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