We all face too many distractions, too much work, too many things fighting for our attention. The harder a product is to use, the less valuable it is perceived to be. Products must be intuitive, both in understanding and usage. Nothing kills value in software like complexity. Most clients won’t make a career out of your software. That is one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in my twenty plus years of managing enterprise software solution development. If a product is not easy to understand and easy to use, it will collect dust.
Software complexity comes from different sources. Sometimes it is the result of poorly thought out solutions and bad design. Sometimes a failure of the developers to fully understand the requirements. But far too often it is the result of feature bloat. More features, more functions, more customizations, all piled on to add value. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. I’ve seen it time and time again in software products and technology initiatives. Good intentions too frequently manifest as complexity, despite awareness of the danger and a desire not to do so. Software products, and the requirements they seek to fulfill, left uncontrolled, tend to grow endlessly. The net result is products that are too difficult to fully understand, too difficult to train, too difficult to use effectively, and utilization falls precipitously.
There are two common types of software solutions. Big and broad solutions, which seek to solve large and complex areas of business requirements, and smaller task based solutions, seeking to solve smaller and contained requirements. Both are susceptible to complexity problems, but the bigger, broader solutions tend to suffer the most.
When looking for solutions to solve your business requirements, be sure to ask yourself the following questions:
– Is understanding the function and value of the software easy and clear?
– Will your users know what to do, why, and how, with minimal training?
– Is the software clear of extraneous features and processes not relevant nor needed?
– Can you explain the value and purpose of the software in a handful of sentences?
If you can’t answer yes to these questions, do yourself a favor and think long and hard about whether the solution can and will succeed. Don’t be a statistic. Software complexity kills.