On Demand — is it just “one damned thing after another?”

The struggles of on demand make that old¬†Churchill chestnut seem appropriate.¬† Especially since they’ve made it to Business Week (here), which should be a buy signal according to my “Business Week Reverse Lock” theory.¬†¬†It¬†is a Sarah Lacy piece, so I figure that it has to be somewhat plugged-in to the Valley’s, ummm… wisdom.¬† And I sure have my doubts that on demand/SaaS will “immamentize the eschaton” as well (here, here, here).¬†

However, while this news isn’t “news”, there was one passage that struck me as telling:

Not every startup has the patience‚ÄĒor funding‚ÄĒto stick on demand out for 10 years and $100 million-plus in sales. Those mid-slog are feeling it acutely.¬† [Bruce} Richardson {of AMR] says he increasingly hears about “founder fatigue,” entrepreneurs being ground down by the endless travel and ever-ballooning marketing costs. It’s worse for the publicly traded companies constantly under Wall Street’s what-have-you-done-for-me-lately scrutiny.

An “aha” moment (for me at least).¬† How many entrepreneurs — never mind SV folks — have the patience for a ten year “Long March“? ¬†On demand places such a premium on execution that it seems unlikely that the very same “swaggering, elephant hunter-style salesmen [who] would drive up in their gleaming BMWs” could wait out on demand’s growing pains.¬† No wonder they’re fatigued…

Enterprise SW value, complexity, and R&D

Dennis Howlett’s extended response (here) to Vinnie Mirchandani’s post demanding more simplicity — or begging Steve Jobs to find it — in enterprise apps (here).¬† Dennis effectively boils down Vinnie’s argument to this:

Why is it that despite all the interest in SaaS and Enterprise 2.0 that the industry offers so very little apparent bang per buck for business as a whole?

Way too much to comment on comprehensively, but here are three:

  1. Behind the simplicity of iTunes lies the complexity of SAP ERP.¬†¬† Every time you hit iTunes, you’re hitting SAP ERP.¬† Tell me again that the iTunes/iPhone model would work without ERP and that Apple’s not getting value out of¬†its investment.¬†
  2. Enterprise software is modeling a business in real-time — a non-trivial, complex¬†task that evolves in time.¬† Per Dennis’s comment about the process approach, once you try to take enterprise SW beyond implementing functions you’ve gotten into the business process management business¬†whether you like it or not.
  3. Brian Sommer‘s comment is spot on: modern portfolio management is just getting introduced to the SW business.¬† Perhaps it should be a bit more ruthless.¬† Vampire/zombie projects, rampant cross-subsidization, and derivative products litter the R&D landscape in both commercial and in-house software development.¬†

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