This article is unique to me in that the deadline for it happens to also be my wedding day. Needless to say, I prepared it before the actual delivery date, but it did cause me to think more than a little about an appropriate subject. As I thought about it, and as my mind is wont to do, patterns began to emerge, and parallels between the institution of marriage and the use of software in the enterprise became apparent.
Although the thought of marrying software may be foreign, if you look at the relationship at a high level of abstraction, the similarities are remarkable. Removing the emotional components (although many users absolutely LOVE their software) what is involved is a long-term relationship, trust between the parties, and mutual benefit.
Similar to a marriage, a choice in software will tend to be long-term. The users will begin to get used to the particular behavior of the software, and will adapt their own behavior somewhat in order to accommodate and get along with their partner. And over time, while human partners may have created a family, experience and wealth, software and its users may have created data, experience and wealth.
Trust is a critical component of any relationship, and it must be earned. In the software realm, this means knowing the the software tools will be able to do the job they’re called upon to do. Be it Photoshop with that 100 megabyte graphics file, or Apache with your web-server, knowing that the tool you’ve got doing the job is ready and able to do so.
Lastly, mutual benefit. A good partnership can bring the very best out of each participant, each supporting the other such that the whole is greater than the parts. With software, this relationship can take many forms. The users should gain some advantage or they wouldn’t use the software, but the software also generally benefits from use by way of generating revenue for the publishers, or developing a user/developer base in the case of an open source project.
Now, just as with human relationships, not all experiences with software will be positive. Some may show their stripes right off the bat, and crash or loose data almost immediately. Others may be more insidious, and not reveal hidden costs and obligations until after a great deal is already invested in the relationship. Software can have an annoying way of not working the way it was suggested it might, and some even insists the entire family move in too. It’s even been told that some software refuses to let it’s users talk to any other unless they breaks up first. Rather disfunctional, but some put up with it.
Advise which might be appropriate for a young person entering the social arena, counsel to the IT manager would suggest advantage in not committing too quickly, but instead taking time to see what the market has to offer. While the prettiest and richest may be be quick to turn one’s head, there is often little behind the facade. Look for substance behind the surface; look for honor and commitment among the lineage.
Perhaps that slightly older media streaming format is better supported and more open than that format from down south. Could that lesser known directory server be more appropriate for your enterprise than that sexy new server which seems to say the most inappropriate things (like, secrets) to the wrong people? Or possibly a new browser, written in the open, may be a better choice than an older model which likes to limit who you speak to.
Further related threads include full disclosure between the parties before becoming committed, as well as getting to know the history and the family. Are there any hidden tie-ins you don’t know about, or are you going to be limited with whom you can talk? And if things don’t go as well as it seemed they might, are you going to be able to get back what you’ve put in? Can you get your data back?
Obviously, the parallels are not perfect, as software will never be an equal partner in a relationship, but I think they are interesting enough to be worth thinking about. A lot more can be at stake than might be at first apparent in a software selection, so make sure you’re completely comfortable with the long-term prospects before making a commitment. A good partnership is be a wonderful thing, but it can take a while to find the right match.
Published in the Victoria Business Examiner.