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March 15, 2016
Technology
DangersOfEasySoftware

Every single software vendor is trying to make their product very easy for anyone to use. The saying, “Software your mom can use” is a common expression you hear. However, what is not so obvious is that Easy Software has an ugly side which can make companies less efficient. Now, you are probably thinking, “How could easier software make me less efficient?” Well, the root of the problem is that there is a gap in understanding of what easy software is and what you might think it is or should be.


Clarification to make sure we are on the same page

I just want to mention early in the post that I am focusing on software applications that are substantial in size such as CAD/CAM, ERP, PLM, etc. applications.


Easy can be Dangerous

If you have software that is easy to use with minimal or no training you can create something and get things done very quickly. This fast visual validation gives you the illusion that you have the expertise to use the software efficiently.

Unfortunately, the reality is that you have only really learned the very basics which allow you to create the initial artifacts very quickly. You then may continue to use the software for months or even years while only learning the subset of features in the workflow that you first used.

However, the majority of the time the software has way more features and potential workflows that will allow you to accomplish your tasks faster with less mistakes and produce a higher quality product. But guess what…you never discover or research the better method because you incorrectly think you already know the software because you can produce the final result that you need/want.

Being able to accomplish a task does not mean that you are doing it in the best way. This is how easy software can be dangerous.

I have had a recent example of just this. I was helping my cousin with his resume. As we were formatting the Word document he was struggling to get the same formatting for his headings. There is no doubt in my mind that he would have had consistent formatting using the method he was using; however, I mentioned that there was actually a better method he should use. I said that he should use the feature Format Painter to copy styling very quickly. His comment was, “That is awesome. It makes it so much easier and faster. Thank you very much.” Therefore, even an easy program such as a word processor is affected by the dangers of Easy. Imagine what you are missing with the other applications you are using?


Avoiding the Dangers of Easy Software

Easy software does not have to be dangerous as long as you understand that easy software does not mean you will automatically discover the best workflow to accomplish a task. It is important to come to the realization that just because you can get to a certain end result does not mean that you got there in the most efficient way. With easy software you need to accept that even though you can get things done, it does not always translate to being the fastest way to accomplish the task.

Training, consultancy, blogs, How-To video are usually still required when you use Easy Software. Majority of people using Easy Software do not think they need to invest in any of these activities. This is usually absolutely wrong. Having said that, the good news is that with software that is truly easy, the amount of training and/or consultancy will not be significant (because the application is easy) and you will get a return of investment within days/weeks. Also, investing your time to read some blogs (which you are doing:)) or being part of a free on-line community can pay dividends towards being more efficient.


Closing Remarks

Software being easy is something I believe in and think the trend to make easy software is overall a requirement.

You simply need to understand the ugly side of having Easy Software. Getting trapped with thinking that since you can get things done that you are an “expert” is the risk of using easy software. Understanding this is the first phase of not falling into the Easy Software deception. With Easy Software you will need to invest $ and/or time to learn the best workflows to accomplish what you need to do.

The good thing about easy software is, it is also very easy to avoid the dangers.

For all those SSI users which use ShipConstructor and/or EnterprisePlatform you can join the SSI Nexus community to avoid from falling in the Easy Software trap.

Post Comments

  1. nick says:

    So very true, Denis.
    I also find that too many people themselves compound the ugly side of easy software by being content with doing what “they always did”, or doing things “the same way as always”, not “having time to think about changing”, etc., all pernicious facets of “the good enough” syndrome, so often resulting in underperformance . . .
    . . too busy dealing with the problem and do not allow themselves the opportunity to try solve the problem so that it no longer occurs. And, the problem gets bigger, and bigger, and bigger still everytime it shows its ugly face. After having done it the same way as before for a few years, how much precious time will have been wasted . . .

    In this respect, allow me to commend you and your team for working so hard to make help available, not just accessible, to all.
    You might already know, but your support rates at the very top of the industry.
    Thank you.

    1. Denis Morais says:

      Totally agree with your comment. I could not have said it better.

  2. MrPleasant says:

    I’m struggling with this, because I don’t agree with the premise. You seem to be arguing that using the software to it’s fullest potential makes the user less efficient. But the questions are “less efficient than what” and “what does fullest potential even mean?” Nobody that I ever met knew how to use all of the capabilities of Excel. Does that mean that they’re less efficient than if they weren’t using it at all? Not at all. They’re still way ahead. In fact, I’m unaware of any significant software product that doesn’t have all kinds of ways of doing things that a minority of its users know about. And that’s ok.

    I have a nice digital Canon camera. I can use it to take great pictures, way better than I could ever do with my old AE1. But I don’t know how to use all the features. Does that make me “less efficient”? I don’t think so.

    Finally, with respect to CAD in particular, are we paying designers and engineers to design and engineer, or are we paying them to be hot shot CAD jockeys? Too often we get caught up in the tool expertise. I’d rather have a great engineer who knew ‘enough’ about the CAD system to get the job done.

    But that’s just my opinion.

    1. Denis Morais says:

      @MrPleasant:disqus Thanks for the comment.

      I am definitely not arguing “using the software to it’s fullest potential makes the user less efficient.” It is the opposite that if use the software to it’s fullest potential makes you more efficient.

      I also am not arguing that you need to know all the features of any application as that would take too much time/effort to learn them all with only you benefiting from a subset of features. Having an awareness of most features and only getting into depth for features you have a good sense that you can benefit from is what I would suggest.

      Excel and your digital camera are perfect examples. I would *not* expect the average person to know all the features of either item. However, if you create a lot of charts and graphs using Excel knowing the enhancements which are added in newer versions is something I would suggest. Then if something seems interesting you would investigate it in more detail. For example PowerPivot’s are a necessity for anyone who is creating interactive reports in Excel.

      In reference to your comment
      “Too often we get caught up in the tool expertise. I’d rather have a great engineer who knew ‘enough’ about the CAD system to get the job done.”
      I agree to a certain extent. I definitely am not arguing to have CAD Jockeys but they should know “enough.” What is enough is what is where I think the issue starts. What was enough 3 years ago is not enough now. They may know enough to get the job done, but not enough to get it done much much faster. Enough is a moving target that changes as new features and enhancements are introduced. Knowing just enough to get the job done is not all you need. For example if you just knew how to draw lines and add text then you pretty much know enough to create any 2D output you would ever need. However, knowing how to use dimensioning would save orders of magnitudes of time v.s. just using lines and text to add your dimensioning. This is an unrealistic example but I used it to clearly explain my point…hopefully.

      Thanks for your comments.

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