Are Continuous Upgrades Actually “Up”?

In ERP land, the Cloud’s promise of instant and seamless upgrades is impossible to resist. No one likes to run 6-month project to upgrade to a year-old version of software. But Josh Greenbaum’s article “Quality Hell in SaaS-Land: Is the SaaS Business Model Based on a False Need for Continuous Upgrades?” raises some interesting questions.

Everyone has their “upgrade fail” stories, from the UI redesign from hell through multi-day outages. How many times have you updated a phone app and thought “ugh, I liked it better before”? Imagine this on the enterprise scale. Josh writes:     

Too many SaaS vendors have decided to err on the side of embracing an upgrade/update cadence that favors newness over quality, and frequency of updates over actual need. Or usability, desirability, and bug-free performance.

There must be a happy middle ground between “never install a new version until SP1 comes out” and “innovation for the sake of innovation”. How to get there? The “feedback loop in enterprise software”, as Josh highlights, is the crucial element. It seems like a no-brainer but how many SaaS companies actually listen to the customers and do it well? JP

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Composable ERP: Business Heaven and IT Hell

Spend N years working in IT and you will see some things come full circle. Remember how SAP’s major selling point was one integrated system vs. “best-of-breed that didn’t breed”? Well, guess what, best-of-breed is back! And it has a new name: composable ERP.

The idea of composable ERP is that applications from multiple vendors will work together, joined in harmony by a database, platform, UX, and a butt-load of APIs (see the illustration above). This sounds amazing, but anyone who ever integrated enterprise software will tell you this is a utopian ideal for the business and a living nightmare for IT.

Setting aside the whole DB and Cloud subject, all the blocks of this magical ERP will need to communicate with each other. Will platform of choice play nicely with all the players? Will APIs actually do what is expected? Who will connect them? Who will maintain, support, and monitor all those connections and integrations? One article bravely states that “in the cloud, it becomes the vendor’s problem to get all these bits and pieces to run”. Right. As we say in the South, “bless your heart”. When your financial postings don’t work, it will ultimately be your problem.

My family was one of the first cord-cutters, we got tired of paying for cable TV and disconnected it in favor of 2 streaming services. These days, cord-cutting is mainstream. But now to get all the different content, we need to subscribe to a multitude of streaming services, bringing the cost almost to the cable TV levels. And while our family manages this by switching services on and off, in the enterprise world, switching off, say, a sales module for a month is just not the thing. So, before anyone gets sold on the grand promise of The Composable ERP Paradise, ask if this will not become the very problem it’s meant to solve.

This story appeared in Issue 13 of The Boring Enterprise Nerdletter

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