Skip to main content

The web, it's just not "weighty" like a good old enterprise piece of software

Thanbks to the Economist for this pictureOne of the arguments I've heard in my time working with (and against) IT Departments is that the web is:
... just a hobby really. I mean, the stuff you can do on the web just isn't weighty enough for large organisations [such as ours].

And I get what they are trying to say. I don't agree with it but I do understand it.

I think the key word is "weighty" and that the underlying feeling is that something like Flickr (say*) just doesn't feel as "heavy", as "strong" or as "industrial strength". And you can sort of see what they mean - Flickr isn't as "heavy" as (say) SAP.

What they are really saying is that "heavy/weighty/..." somehow correlates to "use of brain power". A "weighty" piece of software should, for some reason, make you think and challenge you in the ways of its workings. And so I think they are correct - SAP is "weightier" than Flickr.

However, I don't agree that "weighty" = "useful" (or usable).

Flickr has millions of users, many millions of photos and so from a "amount of storage/usage" it's a weighty product. However, it "just works" - there's no manual, there's no scheduled training days to become certified, it just works for the vast majority that use it.

And because it's so easy to use it calls on a lot less of the users brain power and goes a long way to answering the cry, "Don't make me think!" ... it feels "light".

Unfortunately, for a lot of IT Departments/professionals, "light" has a history of being:
  • amateurish
  • half baked
  • small functionality
  • just a utility
This is the wrong attitude to take today.
"Light" now means, "usable" and "focussed" because the Web 2.0 was born in the consumer world and not in the "unsexy corporate software world". It has to be extremely easy to use because the client base is everyone and anyone form anywhere in the world. It has to work exactly as people expect because there is no IT Department to lean on. It has to work quickly and efficiently as it's a product and everything is one click away from their competitors product.

And that world of consumer products is already infiltrating the work place. The world that people use outside of the work place is the world of consumer products and the expectations are being driven up by it.

IT Departments and "enterprise software vendors" had better catch-up real fast otherwise their world will be washed away under their feet.

* I'm only picking o Flickr as a representative Web 2.0 product not because it's the best by any means
** Picture from The Economist