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—or funding—to 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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