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Bill Bennett


Gracewood spells it out on enterprise usability

Ben Gracewood’s Novopay Technical Review for Dummies is a must-read for anyone wanting to understand why the New Zealand school payroll system is such a mess. The project is one of the worst New Zealand government-funded technology projects in recent history – and we’ve seen a few.

Halfway down Gracewood’s post is a revealing aside. He writes:

This is what “enterprise” software users work with every day. Usability and User Experience are pretty much dirty words, with SAP and Oracle making their money from systems that are actively hostile to end users.

Now this is interesting. I’ve long suspected most enterprise software is horrible to use. People have told me as much in background off-the-record conversations, but it isn’t something most industry people want to say in public. Gracewood clearly doesn’t care.

One of my personal experiences concerned a company that eagerly invited journalists to look at a large-scale application. The people seemed proud of the system’s new WIndows95 look and feel. That might have been an achievement in 1995, but I was looking at the software more than ten years later.

Enterprise software users were still working with text-based screens in the earlier years of the current millennium.

As Gracewood says, the horrors of Novopay are:

…pretty much business as usual for Enterprise IT.

He is right. But the part that surprises me is that there haven’t been more stuff-ups on this scale.



One thought on “Gracewood spells it out on enterprise usability

  1. I was under the impression this was public knowledge; big enterprise software is made unintuitively to try and keep you locked in. If you need to use that function in Excel it’s going to be too difficult to change to LibreOffice versus just getting another license. Just an example, but I’m more meaning things like PoS, bank systems, medical systems…

    When I worked at The Warehouse we used console style interface for PoS and I liked it. Because these interfaces need to be keyboard-driven and you’re mainly going for speed rather than beauty it was perfect… other than it running over top of Windows 2000 and requiring 5 minutes+ to turn on or restart because of a crash. (I believe it was on Windows because they used Microsoft proprietary software that it needed to communicate with.

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