zaterdag, juli 12, 2008

Features Overrated

Nah, let’s not produce yet another obvious comment on the queues of people, anxiously waiting to buy - and maybe, just maybe even activate - their new iPhone 3G. After all, this is world news that nobody can escape from, easily beating missile tests in Iran and the election dispute in Zimbabwe.

What did struck me though in some early comments was the claim that the functionality of the iPhone is not so special at all, as many established smart phones contain similar features. Particularly the Japanese would not be interested in the new device, spoiled already for years by products that support even a lot more, including photography, live TV and an electronic wallet.

So why is it then, that some of the biggest queues were in Tokyo?

Guess it all comes down to Features being so Overrated, a persistent phenomenon in the IT market, not caused by users and consumers but by producers, analysts, industry watchers and consultants. I fell victim to it as well, in an earlier career as the chief developer of a commercial software tool: every new version of our product was shoved with additional features, just to stay in the Rat Race with our competitors. It was entirely about the check boxes, sent to us on surveys that had been put together by all and sundry, but not by the people that actually would be using our software.

I recently spoke on a CRM seminar where all major suppliers showcased their products. The upcoming SaaS challenger was contemplated thoroughly and some competitors and analysts made the already familiar suggestion that the product is interesting, but yet too limited in functionality for mainstream, enterprise use. This amused one of our clients – recent winner of a prestigious annual CRM award - and he commented that if only all sales representatives in an organization would really use 30% of the simplest CRM package functionality on a daily basis, this would be a monumental leap forward. This argument also pertains to using word processors and spreadsheets: in the first instance, we may judge Google Application’s features too limited for enterprise purposes. Then, the majority of us may actually find too much in the package to absorb.

Features are overrated. And we may be so immersed in our check boxes and surveys that we don’t even notice that queue of business users. They are piling up to work with tools and applications that are basic, simple and – above all – fun to use.

Who knows, even sales reps might start to maintain their client records. Just because it is a cool thing to do. Or are we tempting fate now?

Published on Capgemini's CTO blog

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