Why is Enterprise Software So Bad?

Now that I’m a seasoned Senior Enterprise Software Engineer with 6 years of industry experience, I feel qualified to point out that as a whole, enterprise software is kind of a joke. Case in point: I spent the last two days trying to configure security settings in IBM WebSphere. Security is inherently complicated, so I don’t blame IBM for having lots of different security-related forms in their HTML-based admin console. What I do blame them for is lack of basic user interface decency. Example: You check a box to enable “security” for your application and click OK. The admin console tells you to restart the server. So you drop to the shell and stop the server. Then start the server. Uh oh! You didn’t set up your server cert properly. You are now locked out of your server. Think about that while you’re reinstalling it.

It’s not just IBM. Tomcat is easier to work with, but it’s no walk in the park. You’re still editing configuration files by hand and decoding errors by looking at Java stack traces. I don’t understand why it has to be this way. Enterprise software is expensive (well, ok, tomcat is free, but IBM doesn’t have that excuse). It’s orders of magnitude more expensive than consumer software, yet it’s nowhere near as easy to install, configure, and use as something like Microsoft Word or iTunes.

Conspiracy theory: it’s intentional. Companies don’t spend any time on UI or installation/configuration tools because they want revenue from Professional Services. I’m not sure if this is really true though. My understanding is that a lot of enterprise software companies these days don’t want a large PS group. They want to sell software and support contracts, but not fly people all over the country to fix line endings in your config files. I also don’t buy the argument that it’s more complicated software. Enterprise software is narrowly-focused and strictly defined. Sure, it has to run in different environments and app servers, but it’s no worse than a game that has to support 100 different video cards.

Another justification is that the people buying it just don’t care. I don’t think that’s true. One of the things that set my last company apart from its competitors was its user interface and installer. At least, that’s what we were told. I don’t have a point here, I’m just wasting time while I’m reinstalling WebSphere…

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