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John Sumser

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ATS Market Basics VII

(February 12, 2004) - Practiced well, Enterprise Software is not really software in the sense that a desktop PC user understands things. The end product is not software at all. It is a robust, integrated operation with a sustained competitive advantage. The advantage comes from tightly integrated and flexible tools that are easy to align with corporate goals.

The ancient Chinese curse goes something like "May you live in times of change." Even though we have been dealing with software (as a culture) for nearly 40 years, we still understand far too little of the processes required to make things work. Software may not even be a useful term to describe the various automation and improvement services we are starting to be able to harness. What we call software covers a huge range of services and products.

Let's start with a simple example.

We are the proud owners of a Handspring Treo 600. It's a cell phone-camera-email-websurfing-chat-SMS-IM-database-planning-tracking-scheduling-musicplayer-gamemachine. Frankly, we think of it as the phone that lets us leave the laptop where it belongs....on the desk. The Handspring Treo 600 is what a phone is supposed to be: the single piece of hardware you need to carry with you.

There is an amazing array of supplemental tools that are available to tailor the phone's capabilities. Find the improvement on the web, click the link, arrange payment and poof....new capabilities. On one level, everything is a software application. At the same time, we're just never going to think of the phone dial pad as a piece of software. On the Treo 600 (as is usually the case on the PC) software is indistinguishable from the function it performs.

We use a particularly powerful tool called Agendus. It integrates schedule management, to do lists, contact management, email and SMS (quick text to pagers and cell phones). In use, we think of it as the phone, not as a piece of software. Again, software is indistinguishable from the function it performs.

It's just not like that in Enterprise Software.

Although the ideal is certainly to make "software" indistinguishable from the work being performed, Enterprise tools are used by a variety of individuals with a variety of skillsets to accomplish a variety of things as a part of an overall team trying to meet corporate objectives. Each player operates with a set of requirements that are personal reflections of experience gained in life and on the job.

We've often joined the puzzling conversation about the relative merits of this tool versus that tool in the ATS marketplace. The difficult truth is that functionality is not the most significant aspect of Enterprise Software. Although vast energy is put into the requirements development process, meeting all of those requirements will not guarantee a system that works.

Although care and discipline must be a part of the design of an Enterprise toolset, they are not the determining factors in a successful project. Vastly more important are:

  • The Installation Process
  • Effective Training
  • Alignment with Corporate Objectives

It is extremely possible to score high on a so-called "customer satisfaction" survey with an installation that has gone awry. We define success as "a system utilized by all relevant customer personnel to accomplish the job", not whether the purchasing authority is happy. There is, as you might guess, a vast difference.

John Sumser

Previous Articles on the ATS Market Basics Series:
     ATS Market Basics
     ATS Market Basics II
     ATS Market Basics III
     ATS Market Basics IV
     ATS Market Basics V
     ATS Market Basics VI
     ATS Market Basics VII
     ATS Market Basics VIII
     ATS Market Basics IX
     ATS Market Basics X
     ATS Market Basics XI
     ATS Market Basics XII
     ATS Market Basics XIII

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Materials written by John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
Mill Valley, CA 94941

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