UNSUCK ERP SOFTWARE
I wrote a great many articles to produce a buffer and am a little surprised and embarrassed that I did not get some of these things out quicker. Case in point, over the summer, I won a ticket to go to Techfest NW. Want a good idea of what TechFest NW is like? Well, here is their 2015 schedule. Ok, many articles I wrote were old discussion forum posts from the many classes I took, but this is essentially part of the long memo and notes I took on behalf of my former firm, Tiger Sheep. Tiger Sheep focused mainly on teaching people to use ERP software, specifically , SAP BusinessOne. I made just under 100 training videos for it (maybe closer to 80) and I handled users from all around the country when not working on unique software solutions. But the thing with ERP software is that it’s often broken in strange places, difficult to use, little documentation and seems riddled with holes. It’s amazing that ERP software has such a high cost of ownership but seems so much harder to use than say, MS Office. Little, if anything seems intuitive.
First things first, though. For the sake of clarity, what is ERP software? Well, it happens to be Enterprise Resource Planning software. ERP is that thing that your company forces you all to use, has no documentation and nobody is happy with as it only seems to do just about 80% of what you want it to do. the most basic tasks are hidden or made much more difficult than need be and the whole suite seems to abide by rules that make no sense to mortals.
Common examples of ERP criminals, sorry, software companies include, but are not limited to:
And like most people, I wish I was on this Enterprise instead.
Why? ERP software sucks. It just. Plain. Sucks. One fellow I know uses the phrase “It totally sucks donkeys.” And while laughter helps, it doesn’t make the pain go away.
But it makes you wonder…how many reinventions of the wheel are there? Why do we need so many ways to track inventory. (But really, forcing people to use janky software feels like it should be a felony of some kind. Felony worker abuse, or something. I mean, we already cover other forms of abuse, why not one more to the list felonies that exist in America)?
SUMMAY OF NOTES ON IMPROVING ERP SOFTWARE
Speech by Rian Van der Mew of Jive software, originally titled “Why Enterprise Software Sucks and How to Un-suck It”
…Ok, fine, you can watch him here if you feel like watching a 20 minute video instead. I’m giving you the summary though. And it’s not buzz-feedy!
ERP software is known to be used by millions of people and almost satisfy their needs. At Tiger Sheep, I worked on SAP (Specifically BusinessOne)
It performs 80% of what people want, but many are frustrated about the state of ERP software:
It just sucks. But you read that part already. Why does it suck? Well, according to Rian, the answer is twofold:
1. A fundamental lack of Empathy
2. So much legacy.
So empathy for who?
“It’s simple: We have it , sell it to guys in suits and they are different than those who use it…Control, configure, HIPAA compliant…[it’s all in the name of the game]” according to Van der Mew. “Whereas the beards say “We just want to get stuff done….and then it goes into a death spiral. The needs of the users aren’t prioritized. The developers may use JIRA but everyone else uses the Waterfall.
“So things are moved and executed in silos and bureaucracy—lots of people have to sign off on a lot of things [and ultimately, the users are the ones who suffer].”
I think Rian Van der Mew‘s most poignant comment was “The dysfunction in the company becomes the dysfunction of the product and that is given to customers.”
Rian had a few ideas on how to solve the problems that plague enterprise software that I think are worth paying attention too, especially since I worked with SAP installations and support:
Show the business side of design.
A design-central organization and process would be the critical for the business and Van Der Mew claims that over a 10 year period A design central organization shows returns of 290%. Moreover, Van Der Mew claims that it ultimately saves on production costs; While it is an up-front cost, it ultimately saves money by having to solve the problem [or “…Try to fix it with kludges,” says Van Der Mew], “…Which can easily be 100 times what it would be to cost after release.” Rian additionally suggests shrink the user-centered design to fit.
The big takeaway here is to turn sales into a product design function and use a jobs-to- be-done model, or so van Der Mew states.
Van Der Mew listed four things in particular to un-suck as well as some modern collaboration techniques.
MODERN COLLABORATION TECHNIQUES:
1. Product Discovery
2. Design studio & prototyping
3. User research. “It’s impossible not to have empathy when you see someone struggle to use your product…
You don’t even have to write anything down, just watch… Just watch.
Also, “least number of mouse clicks” philosophy is counter-productive as it can put options in strange places that don’t make sense. People hate being unable to do their jobs and hate feeling powerless.”
Ok, now on to the 4 things proper!
4 THINGS TO UNSUCK!
1. SHOW them why it’s important.
2. Show them it’s not going to make their lives difficult.
3. Give us a frame work that covers the whole product
4. Make them a part of the process.
Enterprise software is a human nature problem and the trick is to reteach good behavior. Considerign that I made just under a hundred videos over at Tiger Sheep abot how to properly use SAP BusinessOne, I agree with this wholeheartedly.
No-compromise design is bad. Make it purpose-built. The next step should be as obvious as possible.
I did go to the other speeches on automation in the workplace, how I.T. will disrupt healthcare and the like, but ultimately, they were just very self-congratulatory (“Look at how great I am! My company rocks!”) and I just did not see the point in attending others. The speakers spoke a lot but ultimately said nothing. I proceed to look into networking on behalf of the firm for the rest of the afternoon.