Why Business Software is Broken
Our promise to keep things simple

July 9, 2013 - Comments

Every piece of business software ever written, is horribly broken. This article will tell you how to stop your software suffering from the same fate.

We recently came across Mark Suster’s article, “The Scarcest Resource at Startups is Management Bandwidth”. In the article, Mark claims that lack of focus is the biggest risk to a startup. He’s right. In fact, it’s worse than that. Lack of focus is the biggest risk to a startup, an enterprise, a product, or an individual.

This got us thinking. Why do we as humans constantly suffer through this struggle between distraction and focus? More generally, why do we frequently choose complexity over simplicity?

The answer is fear.

We are afraid we aren’t fast enough. What if we’re too late to the market? What if we don’t hit our life goals fast enough? Won’t the opportunity (and the world!) pass us by?

We are afraid we aren’t good enough. What if we are dreaming too big? What if the product we’re creating isn’t the world-changing catalyst we dream it to be? What if we just aren’t smart enough to pull it off? What if we fail?

We are afraid we won’t ultimately succeed. What if we never hit our numbers? What if nobody wants our product? What if our management choices lead to mediocrity?

In the face of so much uncertainty, the natural human tendency is to DO MORE. Our focused, beautiful product needs MORE FEATURES to make everyone happy. If the system is down, throw everything you’ve got at it! If we’re not sure our business plan will work, let’s broaden our potential customer base and cater to the needs of everyone!

Decisions like these are always made out of fear. They are a slow, quiet panic.

We make these decisions every day, on both a small and large scale. They lead to broken products that feed complex, fear-driven organizations, which then demand broken complex fear-driven products. It’s an infinite and vicious cycle of mediocrity.

This is and has always been the problem with business software. Creators of products continually ask “what if?” until their panicky questions lead to panicky answers. What comes out in the end are inhuman, complex, endlessly configurable products with no soul, no opinion and no character.

Customers then continually feed the beast by asking “what if?”. “If we spend a bunch of money on this, it better be perfect! How is it going to match OUR processes?”. They back vendors into a corner from which the only way out is to implement every feature ever requested.

Customers provide pressure, and weak, scared product developers give in to it.

Focus – true simplicity – comes from being self-confident and having the guts to say “no”. It means knowing who to listen to and moreover knowing who NOT to listen to. Staying true to yourself, accepting the fear but don’t be driven by it. Seeing the risks, but being aware of the opportunities that lie in true focus.

We’ve been using business software for two decades, and without fail, every piece of productivity software ever created has given in to this fear. Never have we been tempted to bring our business software home with us or to subject our families to it. Who would turn such an inhumane exhibition of fear on their friends and family? Who would want to use such a piece of software in their free time?

Ultimately, the first piece of business software to NOT suck the life out of its users will be the one that reaches a larger audience while continuing to be true to itself. To not give in to the fear. To not confront fear with complexity.

This is a topic that is critically important to us at 6Wunderkinder. We gave in to fear with Wunderkit. Wunderkit had an answer for every “what if?” our collective anxieties could produce. Those answers led to a product so complex that it just didn’t work.

We learned our lesson and with Wunderlist 2 shifted the company’s focus back to simplicity, with the clear goal to build a human product with a soul.

Now, though, with the release of Wunderlist Pro, we are at a critical moment. We’re selling software to teams. We’re venturing into “enterprises”. What if we don’t have enough features? What if they don’t buy it? There it is again. What if – this is where we test ourselves.

We know that it is Wunderlist’s simplicity that make our millions of free users and thousands of businesses, who have purchased Pro accounts, happily use it day in and day out. We know you love Wunderlist because it just offers the essentials and simply gets out of your way to let you do what you want. This is worth more than any feature. It took us awhile to understand, that keeping things truly simple sets us apart from all competition.

So, we are going to relentlessly question our own decisions, fighting our fears and try to stay true to our core. We pledge to maintain that focus and simplicity as we continue to develop Wunderlist.

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