On enterprise software 24 Oct, 2007
There’s a great discussion going at the 37signals weblog, Signal vs. Noise, about the suckiness of so-called “enterprise software”. The post there was in turn inspired by Khoi Vinh’s piece, If It Looks Like a Cow, Swims Like a Dolphin and Quacks Like a Duck, It Must Be Enterprise Software which is also worth a read. Needless to say, Lotus Notes gets a good bashing in either the comments to these posts, or in the posts themselves (specifically, the advertising for Lotus Notes 8 in the Vinh article). On both sites the commentary delves into the essential issue at play when it comes to enterprise software: decisions around what software to deploy are rarely to do with the end-users, or with the technology itself, and come from wholly political motives instead.
In the Signal vs. Noise comments, aside from Lotus Notes, posters also focussed their vitriol on vendors like SAP, Siebel and EMC Documentum. I have had experience (direct or otherwise) of all of these (and others); there was a fair bit of resonance when I read the comments!
When I think of “enterprise software” I think of stuff that should be (a) resilient (i.e. clustered or at least employs some kind of decent fail-over), (b) scaleable and (c) reliable in the hands of users. Yet it is extraordinary how so many “enterprise” packages fail on one or all counts. Some examples (with no links! Bah, what a grumpy old man):
- A web CMS that required a mind-blowing amount of costly software to do everything required in terms of web presentation—take a bow Interwoven.
- A Documentum-based web publishing system that can’t be clustered and often falls over distributing content for a handful of small-scale static websites.
- A SAP-based financial system that has the worst off-line client I’ve ever seen, both in terms of reliability and general user experience (Notes 4.6 is pretty as a picture compared with this thing)
- An integrated questionnaire system that took over two years to develop using best of breed technologies, yet still didn’t do everything the original (Notes-based) system did
(Don’t get me started on the installation and configuration of some of these systems…)
Bracketing Lotus Notes with other enterprise software (as in Vinh’s post) is pretty ironic. On the plus side, when compared with more traditional enterprise systems, the framework offered by Lotus Notes & Domino technology is relatively cheap, extremely resilient, extremely secure, and oft-times just as scaleabale. It is also a platform that can be employed successfully, time and time again, to solve typical enterprise software issues (workflow, rich application-email integration, dynamic websites, RDBMS integration, and so on and so forth). Yet all we ever hear is
Meh, Notes mail sucks.
Funny old world innit?