Friday, August 06, 2010

More Cowbell

For the younger folks in the crowd, "More Cowbell" is a classic Saturday Night Live skit that deals with the theme of emphasizing the details until they overwhelm the product (in the case of the skit, a musical product from Blue Oyster Cult). You can see the entire classic skit, in all it's low-res glory, here.

I see quite a bit of "More Cowbell" syndrome in enterprise apps; big emphasis on small functionality details that tend to overwhelm otherwise solid products. As I see more and more of this, my appreciation grows for clean and simple design.

Enterprise apps could take a page from web apps here. Rather than trying to be all things to all people (and ultimately satisfying none), stick to a basic functionality set and deliver that functionality set really, really well. Apps that attempt to cover 100 percent of the needs for 100 percent of the potential users wind up overwhelming, disjointed and ugly to use. I think apps that attempt to provide a 60 percent solution tend to see higher rates of adoption.

So, to all you enterprise apps developers out there, think twice before answering the next call for more cowbell. I'd rather have a nice little box of Junior Mints than a 12 pound chocolate bar that includes almonds, avocados, peanut butter, peach slices, and corn kernels made with Nutrasweet. Please, dial back on the freaking' cowbell already!

1 comment:

Gavin said...

Hi Floyd

Great post. I often think that the highest areas of complexity in an ERP system are where the developers are trying to build in too much flexibility. SLA and Tax come to mind.

At the same time I think the other extreme (personified by the likes of 37 Signals) is often too inflexible for any large scale deployments so there's definitely a need for balance.

It occurred to me the other day that with Oracle's Complete, open & integrated promise, they have the opportunity to open up extensions via an Apps Store/Appworld type model where they're not so complete. This would allow them to focus on developing the core simplicity and relying on 3rd parties to create the complex extensions.

Will be interesting to see what happens!