Software Bloat vs. Ease-of-Use

I spent the last week at an industry conference sponsored by the Software and Information Industry Association. The Enterprise Software Summit section of the conference centered around two topics: open source and software-as-a-service (SaaS). One major theme was that SaaS was increasingly becoming a strategic answer because IT departments didn’t listen and enterprise software is bloated. One the one hand, with QuickBase being an SaaS, I guess this is good news. However, being a techie, I don’t like either message. The first says that technical folks can’t "hear" business talk, and the second says that software vendors can’t "hear" their customers. Ugh… the first "trend" is something that I could talk about for hours, but will spare you. The second is more appropriate for this blog.

In my (humble) opinion, the challenge isn’t the platform (i.e., SaaS vs. installed software), but the way we approach software in general. SaaS vendors are just younger, thus haven’t experience bloat… yet. I see the push to bloat every day. And, I have a tremendous amount of respect for the QuickBase engineering team in the way they handle that push. They hear customers and want to respond to their needs, but often the requests make the software harder to use. The art is when you can both respond to the needs and continue to have easy-to-use, easy-to-understand software. Maybe I can coax one of the engineers to discuss a problem like this, so you can see the struggle in action, but in general, please tell us where you think we are doing well on this front, and where we aren’t!

  • Mark Shnier

    I have never blogged in my life, so I thought I would try it.

    The ultimate in unbloated “Saas” has got to be Google. I’m sure that it would take a resolution of the Board of Directors of that company to add a single word to their search screen. That approach is an important reason why people use Google and those owners are zillionaires.

    So, even as a user asking for more features, I certainly respect the sober second thought of Developers standing back and putting themselves in the shoes of a everyday not-so-expert user.

    One day, I will not be around to maintain all the wonderful QuickBase Applications that I have written. So I will have to pass the torch to someone else in our company who will need to maintain these Applications. Keeping things simple will make it easier to do that.

    Mark Shnier

    [Reply]

  • Mark Shnier

    I have never blogged in my life, so I thought I would try it.

    The ultimate in unbloated “Saas” has got to be Google. I’m sure that it would take a resolution of the Board of Directors of that company to add a single word to their search screen. That approach is an important reason why people use Google and those owners are zillionaires.

    So, even as a user asking for more features, I certainly respect the sober second thought of Developers standing back and putting themselves in the shoes of a everyday not-so-expert user.

    One day, I will not be around to maintain all the wonderful QuickBase Applications that I have written. So I will have to pass the torch to someone else in our company who will need to maintain these Applications. Keeping things simple will make it easier to do that.

    Mark Shnier

    [Reply]

  • http://www.bcbsnc.com/ james lacorte

    Mark,
    Interesting perspective. It would be great to hear from one of your engineers on this. As a QB customer I am always finding ways to use Quickbase or find it’s limits. I love sending in enhancement ideas and am radical about QB. It would be great to get their perspective.

    Thanks for the blog!
    James

    [Reply]

  • http://www.bcbsnc.com james lacorte

    Mark,
    Interesting perspective. It would be great to hear from one of your engineers on this. As a QB customer I am always finding ways to use Quickbase or find it’s limits. I love sending in enhancement ideas and am radical about QB. It would be great to get their perspective.

    Thanks for the blog!
    James

    [Reply]

  • Jana

    Mark and James,

    Thanks for your comments, and appreciation for the tension between ease of use and functionality. We appreciate both of your comments and suggestions and I think you both can say that we’ve implemented several of them!

    We are just at the right stage for our next release that the engineers can start getting your feedback. Expect to see some posts over the next few weeks.

    And, Mark, your point about maintenance is a critical one. You’ll see use working on this more, including management, learning and community tools that we hope will help.

    Thanks,
    Jana

    [Reply]

  • Jana

    Mark and James,

    Thanks for your comments, and appreciation for the tension between ease of use and functionality. We appreciate both of your comments and suggestions and I think you both can say that we’ve implemented several of them!

    We are just at the right stage for our next release that the engineers can start getting your feedback. Expect to see some posts over the next few weeks.

    And, Mark, your point about maintenance is a critical one. You’ll see use working on this more, including management, learning and community tools that we hope will help.

    Thanks,
    Jana

    [Reply]