Software is Soft

Having been tasked on more than one occasion to “position” enterprise level software (e.g. Content Management, Workflow, RDBMS) against its major competitors — and having poured myself over Gartner and Forrester reports, attempted to sort through the jargon and keywords-of-the-month to distinguish what I know to be true versus what the reports say — I’ve come to realize that software, really, is soft.
tinkertoy meme


More importantly the aspects of software that push it higher in rankings may be meaningless or even detrimental to your use. Here’s a course example: Software ‘ABC’ get’s an uptick for “Multi-Platform Support” — it runs on Windows, Unix, iSeries, and z/OS. But you have a Linux server. The problem is obvious.

Now I’m not saying there aren’t differences between the big software vendors, or that 1st-gen product flops should be avoided (I’m looking at you Process Server). And one can certainly find hot-eyed defenders and baleful naysayers for any brand — but how those differences bear-out through a development cycle and the impact on future projects is almost impossible to determine at the time of purchase. Add to that mergers, acquisitions, strategic shifts in direction — and choosing software is like throwing darts… underwater.

The most important aspect of a software implementation is not the software, but the implementation. The strength / depth of your staff, or having a good relationship with a competent / trustworthy services vendor — those are better indicators of success than knowing in which “quadrant” an enterprise solutions appears.

lego meme

And when you’re dealing with some shortcoming or ‘hidden feature’ of the software your company just spent a million dollars buying, and as you second guess your decision and gaze longingly at a write-up in some tech journal describing your competitors super-duper implementation on a competing platform — know that someone in that same company is beating his/her head on a desk fretting over some other limitation or trying to figure out how to tell management that the software they just spent 5 million on can’t do x or z natively.

It’s like a lot of other things in life, we’re not limited by our stuff but by our actions. It’s not about the furniture we’ve meticulously selected, or the specs on our car, or even the size and complexity of our paycheck — it’s what we do with our stuff that matters and how we live our lives that gives it value.

I still haven’t found the Gartner report to explain that to me.


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