Wed 12 Dec 2007
Some folks started an inter-blog discussion about why enterprise software is mostly bloated crap. The theories put forward range from a meaningless observation that enterprise software “is not sexy“, through really funny stuff like George Ou lamenting that they are typically not done with “lightweight” languages like C++ but instead with “programming shortcuts like Java” to gloomy statements that it has to be that way since it’s enterprise software – so what else could we expect? Nicholas Carr posits that solution might be in doing enterprise software as web applications (exactly what we offer), which sets him apart from the others. But even that voice included some key elements are missing from the corporate IT experts prospective: who produces enterprise software – and how.
I think you can’t understand why enterprise software mostly sucks by not taking into account that it is the area where most projects are done with ineffective waterfall methods under heavy bureaucracy of traditional project management methods inside corporations. SAP implementation, for example, is mostly expensive consultants doing all kinds of paperwork and producing tons of specifications before any programmer does anything.
All that further amplifies the already bad effects of developers working in a corporate environment (like at SAP or Microsoft), usually not very dynamic, with limited upward mobility and very limited influence a single employee can have on a product. Adding long release times, extensive paperwork and removing any link between developers and clients has to kill any excitement and emotion developers have for their work. Without it what they produce must be crap.
Not that clients or producers of these overpriced beasts care. Clients got educated through their lifetime that enterprise software has to be hard to use, buggy and expensive. Producers are more than happy to earn huge profits from cheaply made products. Until the clients won’t start to ask for more not much will change here.
During the Agile Development Practices conference last week Mary Poppendieck announced that agile is now mainstream. Well, apparently it is not mainstream enough yet for the IT experts I mentioned above – or for the enterprise systems buyers. But I believe we’ll get there eventually.