Sunday, May 18, 2008

Situated Web Application Platform

Pete Thomas presented "Situated Web Application Platforms" at BarCampKC. The talk was wonderful and it made me think about current IT solutions. A talk ensued after his wonderful presentation about Excel, email, agile methodologies, and enterprise development. It was pondered why business users embrace Excel and email and are reluctant to move off of them. The alternatives, SWAPs, are clearly superior, so why stick with cruder applications? I reasoned because Excel and email were good enough. Why would they want to learn a new tool if the current one fulfills their need? They are not computer people and would rather be solving problems than wasting time in front of a computer. Their passion and strength is not in development, but solving business problems. We should embrace that. While this might startle us because we wouldn't stand for it (I know I would not want to merge data from a bunch of Excel spreadsheets into one, but my passion is different).

So, why fight and try to replace Excel? We need to change our thinking and embrace it. It could help with requirements gathering. It could help us find the missing pieces in our software. We are always on the lookout for solving problems with technology, but in this case, we should be asking our users why they have the need to use Excel. What else could we do for them. It's time for us to stop mindlessly implementing what the customer tells us and figure out what their true goals are and solve those.

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