Feature bloat in Project is a Micro(soft) symptom of a Macro issue

If you have railed at the ballooning costs, system resource requirements and feature overload in new versions of Microsoft Project or other desktop productivity applications, this article may strike a chord.

Having worked for a few software companies, I know very well how much blood, sweat and tears goes into each new product release – from a product development perspective, as well as from the sales, marketing, support and implementation areas.  Most software companies don’t produce new releases just for the sake of doing so, they, like most other organizations are being driven by consumer pressure.

This got me thinking about this problem – 95% of users will leverage less than 10% of the capabilities of any current commercial software product.  This same bastardization of the Pareto principle could be applied to popular media and information distribution – most TV viewers watch less than 10% of the TV channels that they subscribe to, and there are very few people that can claim to read each and every article of the newspapers or magazines they purchase.

The idea that “new” or “more” is better is a pox on our society – it drives public companies to fore go strategic planning in favor of attempting to exceed market expectations on a quarter-by-quarter basis.  It forces TV networks and movie production houses to churn out content in the hopes of finding a hit, and causes Tweeters, Bloggers and traditional authors to sacrifice insightful prose for volume just to be able to retain the mind share of their audience.

Finally, it causes (most) software companies to bypass true innovation and high quality practices to instead seek short term “heat” through the release of more and more features that few people will truly benefit from.

Patience is a virtue that is in danger of being lost – we expect companies to generate new products at a faster pace than can be done in a quality fashion, and with greater frequency than our ability to absorb change.  We implore artists to produce innovative material but then are unwilling to give all but the most successful of them the time it takes to be truly creative.

Our ability to focus and squeeze out the maximum value of the things we purchase is decreasing and the trend is not changing with new generations – we may have been content at a younger age with one or two significant gifts for our birthdays but our children are expecting an order of magnitude more, and cast aside toys that have been played with less than a handful of times.

As Pogo said “We have met the enemy and he is us”

Categories: Process Peeves | Leave a comment

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