Tag Archives: Technology

When Software becomes Bloatware

I recently took part in a BusinessObjects BI 4.0 implementation. The first thing you need to do after the server is up and running is to install the client facing tools. With on-premise, non web based (note – part of SBOP is web-based) technologies this means you need to go through the painful process of doing initial installs and patching. It took a solid 4 days just get one PC up to the latest patch spec. YES. 4. FRICKING. DAYS. To be fair, if you utilize some of the web-based features, it’s just a simple JRE install and you’re up and running. But that’s just for one piece of the whole solution set. So obviously my first reaction to this series of events is “Holy Bloatware Batman”!

So how does software become bloatware?

This happens all of the time in Enterprise technology and is no way limited to SAP products. How often do you hear “God Windows is so clunky” or “This thing keeps crashing”? Companies tend to buy on features that can help them do their business more effectively or more productively. Yet, you won’t ever hear an Enterprise CIO say “Well it doesn’t do XYZ but it is the fastest on the market so we’ll definitely use it”. And why not? Because the performance of the application is often overlooked as a major feature of the software. Read Jeff Atwood’s blog article about “Performance is a Feature” if you want to know more of what I’m talking about. I believe this overall concept is some form of Absence Blindess in that we don’t see performance as a feature of a solution unless it is of course missing to begin with.

What I find more interesting than anything is that most people tend to get more mentally frustrated when features are missing than when core features not performing well. A good example of this is Pixelmator versus Photoshop. Photoshop is super clunky. It takes a good minute or so to load up on my Mac. Pixelmator is very lightweight and generally takes 50% less time to load on my computer. I also rarely wait for the functionalities of the program to load. However I miss Photoshop’s Layer Style functionality. So much so that I tend to be willing to just switch over to Photoshop because of that one feature. Otherwise I sincerely hate waiting for Photoshop to load.

Letting your customers outgrow you

The guys over at 37 Signals, owners of the popular Basecamp project management tool, have a good preventative stance on this: Growing In vs Growing Out. They say:

We’d rather our customers grow out of our products eventually than never be able to grow into them in the first place.

Why is this important? Because they are actively promoting their software to preventing it to become bloatware. They realize that if they had more features it will eventually turn there customers away. One way other companies have circumvented this is to build add-ons or apps that are very modular. Meaning the user can add and remove as they go. This is important because the company can focus on the core technology while letting the user chose functionality over performance.

So to the Enterprise technology companies out there I must say to please re-consider your bloatware and stop the feature creep. Why? Because as soon as your products become clunky, you begin to represent what most visionary entrepreneurs see as a “market waiting to be disrupted”. Don’t believe me? Just ask Microsoft about Google apps and SAP about Workday. It may not happen tomorrow but it will happen eventually. My generation lives in a Google world, get used to it.

Disruptive Technologies Will Save SAP

SAP’s ecosystem is in itself an absolutely massive market. Therefore SAP relies heavily on it’s partners to provide consulting services, conduct sales, and manage large scale implementations. There are three largely disruptive forces to this ecosystem and interestingly they all can be seen in SAP Business Intelligence:

  1. In Memory Technology
  2. Cloud Computing
  3. Mobile Applications

In Memory Technology – There is a huge market for OLAP and data-warehousing . The BI market is a multi-billion dollar industry. The in-memory technology (BWA and HANA initially) is largely disruptive to the way we store and report on data. SAP’s CTO Vishal Sikka commented on this by saying:

Together with our partners and customers, SAP is breaking down the boundaries between real-time events and real-time business decisions

SAP has made a strategic goal to eventually replace all reporting in the enterprise by use of the HANA (High-Performance Analytical Appliance). Many of my blog posts will centered around the evolution of this.

Cloud Computing – The buzz around cloud computing is absolutely crazy right now and for good reason. Unfortunately there are huge concerns for large enterprises to productively adopt the technology. For example: Big name firms form alliance to drive cloud standards Interestingly there is a large market for non-productive solutions, such as pre-sales, testing, proof of concept, etc. What’s even more interesting, SAP itself has been “eating its own dogfood” and has been utilizing cloud services for nearly 3+ years now:

Mobile Applications - Mobile applications represent a fundamentally different way that we interact with software. In enterprise ERP we often see feature rich (and subsequently clunky) applications. This is as SAP says “a game changer” as it not only means that there is a whole new way of developing software, but also their is a renewed focused on how we use enterprise BI applications.

So why will these save SAP? Three reasons:

  1. In-Memory: Other database/warehousing solutions are much faster than SAP’s current offering (such as NoSQL, Hadoop, MapReduce, etc) In-memory speeds this up.
  2. Cloud: IT infrastructure costs have grown enormously out of control. Cloud reduces that.
  3. Mobile: The adoption of mobile is quickly making itself into mainstream enterprise. Business is now done on the go. Mobile aids that.

The convergence of many of these technologies represents both a scary and opportunistic time for myself and the technologies SAP supports. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out and I’m glad that SAP has embraced disruption.