When Cloud Apps, Even Google, Go Bad

IT solutions buyers know that anything delivered in the old-school OnPrem format inevitably will go stale – that's a fact. There's just no way that you will be able to throw the IT resources behind what you just bought to ensure that it remains the very best it can be.

You bought the tool for a specific use case, implemented against this, saw the milestones pass, and got your binder of materials. After final signoff, now you're on your own. Sure, you probably agreed to pay 20-25% in annual maintenance fees to ensure some level of updates, but it's a conservative world you now live in, with few waves rocking your procurement boat. The fact that your installation generates more profits for the solution provider the less they tinker with it, as well as your own IT department’s bias in favor of status quo more or less sets everything in cement.

So, next time you go for a SaaS aka Cloud solution instead – here it is dynamic – seamless updates on a regular basis - yay!

In the ideal world – and in any SaaS/Cloud solution provider's sales pitch – you will be assured that you will benefit from a steady stream of upgrades also developed for other clients of the solution provider. This is true. However, just because apps are delivered via SaaS or Cloud, this doesn't mean that they are impervious to bad design. Or that all features that are released will be for the better.

As solution examples that are easy for Spend Matters’ readership to validate, I often refer to software apps from Delta, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Most people have used them, and they are developed by large organizations with plenty of resources. You can look at the many jibes we have made regarding Delta and their mobile apps over the years – it is an ongoing crazy dance with a few steps forward and several backwards, seemingly without any rhyme or reason. Features come and go, and come back. LinkedIn and Facebook have similar mobile app madness. It wouldn't be as relevant to hang out a smaller P2P player and their early efforts to deliver a mobile app to dry. It’s just more sporting to pick on the big guys!

Now we have to add Google to the list, it seems. In case you hadn't noticed, over the past week or so, Google redesigned their UI and removed a horizontal navigation bar that lets you move from Gmail to Calendar, etc. Now the feature is hidden under a "mystery meat" grid. Google's marketing spinmeisters probably calls it "delivering a consistent user experience across mobile and browser UIs.” Still, it’s a change that seems utterly needless, and has only increased overall click-count. Bad designs are still bad even if they are consistent.

The new UI has radically “compressed” the user experience, hides commands behind buttons, and generally slows you down. Since I always try to judge solutions by their use case, the only thing that makes sense regarding the new Google UI is if it is intended for children (who lied about their age to get a Gmail account), students, or non-corporate users. In other words, people writing banal emails to single recipients or basic distribution lists, who don’t need to worry about their emails getting to the wrong people.

Since programmers are influenced by the big names (witness how the Apple UI has spread across all industries), this compression design trend could “infect” other solutions as well.

So what are you, the solution buyer to do?

Here’s some advice gained over years spent on the solution provider side of the aisle. The “secret” with SaaS procurement apps is that (if you have strong opinions about the UI and the features) you need to get organized and vocal – the squeaky wheel does get greased. This is especially if you have rallied other clients to your side. Or if you’re are a keystone client name and your word as a reference is important, or if you can get the marquee client to make the pitch for you.

Regarding the changes Google and other social media app providers inflict on us on a regular basis, the above approach is unfortunately not as successful of a strategy. An ant only gets heard by an elephant in fairy tales. And since you get what you pay for, it’s hard to complain about free apps, even when they go bad.

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