The CEO of a manufacturing company expresses frustration his plant employees have to key entries into the shop floor system. Why not a voice interface? And anticipating the objection, says don’t tell me they cannot use noise canceling technology to offset the sounds of machines?
Not an unreasonable request at all. And one of many requests enterprise vendors have been ignoring.
For years now, Gartner and other analysts have been telling customers they have accumulated technical debt to vendors by not upgrading to the latest releases of software. But we have forgotten what Ward Cunningham said in 1992. He is credited with having coined the term
“Shipping first time code is like going into debt. A little debt speeds development so long as it is paid back promptly with a rewrite… The danger occurs when the debt is not repaid.”
Vendors have been accumulating gobs of technical debt by not keeping the software up with the times, even though customers keep paying them maintenance or annual subscriptions. You see it manifested in many ways
- Continued customer use of spreadsheets, often large ones, when analytical tools were supposed to have replaced them
- Vertical apps which continue to only be supported in on-prem mode when vendors have been pushing cloud and in-memory versions of horizontal apps for years
- Significant customer customizations because the functionality delivered was inadequate
- Large number of “ring-fence” tools and applications because the core functionality delivered by the vendor was inadequate or has not kept up over the years
- UX lagging that which consumer tech has been delivering for a while
- Vendor investment in platforms and tools, when customers would prefer the money going into application functionality
Part of the issue is vendors follow a formula to keep investors happy and only spend 10 to 12% of revenues on R&D. And worse, much of that goes towards investment for new markets the vendor wants to chase.
There is an old expression “Dance with the one who brung you.” Pay off your technical debt to your incumbent customers. Or risk losing them to third party maintenance or having them ring-fence you to insignificance.
(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)