Did industry analysts turn a blind eye to long-standing problems? by Jon Hansen

Posted on June 25, 2013


BPM estimates the dollar loss at “tens of billions” each year as a result of obsolete, redundant and unused software . . . The court fights that preceded word Monday that Oracle and PeopleSoft finally agreed to merge shed some light on software companies’ knowledge of enterprise software’s failings. The gems unearthed include this Microsoft memo: “After more than 20 years and at least three generations, business applications are still considered expensive, complex and disruptive to implement and maintain and use. As a result, the value derived from a business application is continually being questioned or dismissed by both potential and existing customers.”

Like the countless pharmaceutical industry scandals involving off-label marketing, Watergate and the 1919 Black Sox fix, the question of whom knew what when always leads to a very interesting discussion.

When it comes to the shortfalls to which I referred in my previous post Why Mickey North Rizza can’t go home again . . . or can she?, there does not seem to be a great deal of protestation regarding the veracity of my position.  Specifically, why did the majority of journalists/analysts remain silent to the obvious and long standing problems that cost end-user client companies unfathomable amounts of money.

Regardless of the actual amount, my question remains the same . . . where were the analysts when companies were hemorrhaging money and resources?  Were they not the first and one of the primary sources of insight for the end-user market?  If they were doing their jobs, wouldn’t the vast majority of the failures been avoided?

Reminiscent of one of the best lines from the 1987 movie The Untouchables in which Sean Connery’s character Malone states;  “everybody knows where the booze is. The problem isn’t finding it, the problem is who wants to cross Capone,” it is clear that everyone knew that there was a problem in the enterprise application industry.

Everybody knows where the booze is . . .

Everybody knows where the booze is . . .

Sadly I am not certain that we will ever get a satisfactory answer.  Like having to take a bad report card home to be signed by your parents, I would imagine that most analysts would just as soon drop it and forget it ever happened.

Perhaps instead of looking for answers which will not change the past, we should adopt a better late than never perspective.  Take today’s Tweet by Coupa regarding their sponsored Spend Matters paper What Does Usability Really Mean?  Making Software Selection Decisions and Getting Behind the Rhetoric.  While I have not yet had the opportunity to review the paper – perhaps Peter Smith will be kind enough to send me a copy – given that the 2004 Investors.com article talked about the billions of dollars lost as a result of obsolete, redundant and unused software, we are only really talking about a close the barn door after the horse is out time lag of 9 years. 

Again, I have to ask, how do you overlook the staggering losses suffered by the market as a result of this gap in revelational insight and acknowledgement?  Of even greater interest is how do you ever trust the advice of those who knew there was a problem but did nothing about it . . . or did they?


Posted in: Commentary