How do your systems stack up to the outside world?

Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the systems we have deployed in terms of how they would fare if they had to compete for attention, the way the public faces of organizations do.

Yet the good, the bad and the ugly of Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Craigslist and the like are part of the everyday world of the people your organization employs.

For better or for worse, these are the environments they spend time in — and the standard by which the technology your organization uses is judged.

I remember a comment made by a millennial generation friend shortly after they’d taken my recommendation to do business with a particular financial institution. “I went there, but I’m not comfortable about staying there. I don’t trust them.”

When I asked why not, it turned out the branch assistant manager he’d dealt with had turned his screen so that they could both see it while he went through the new customer procedure.

This institution had a customer relationship management package as its “front end” — graphical user interface, but cluttered by comparison to the typical web site of today — but windows going into terminal mode kept popping up as the older systems were accessed to create accounts.

A view of a world this younger person had never seen — the world of green dot-matrix letters on black screens — and the cryptic, terse messages common in old mainframe and midrange systems broke his trust in the institution.

Remember: he didn’t have to use the system — he’d merely observed it in action.

Modern web presences are filled with auto updates (watch the timelines scroll as new entries arrive), abilities to sort based on priority or time of arrival, ability to suppress/show information — and lots of white space, dividers and the like to make “at a glance” recognition of information easy.

Modern web operations also almost always allow for feedback (stars, likes, +1s) and conversations to emerge around items. These turn work into learning experiences.

I’m not suggesting that every operational system needs to look like Facebook. But it is interesting how little enterprise software takes any of the developments of the past decade or more into account.

More and more, packages are becoming the deviant element. It’s why new entrants for the SME market in accounting, customer tracking, etc. are making headway: their software-as-a-service or smartphone app interfaces look just like those for social networks or modern eCommerce.

It’s the first sign, perhaps, that the existing order of packages-as-king, and of package and software vendors, may be coming to a close. After all, they, in their day, replaced the guys who ran on the mainframe with cryptic green-screen codes…

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About passionateobserver

I am a passionate observer of our society, the economy, and politics. Mostly I don't like much of what I see, so I write as a concerned citizen. To the fray, I bring a background in the philosophy of history, a lifetime's reading, a work history in information technology management, consulting and education.
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