Usable software: god-send or devil’s bane?

Here’s an ethical question for you guys out there:

Is usable software a worthy cause if it makes people’s jobs redundant?

I’ve been thinking about this for some time, but this evening it really drove home.

My girlfriend had plans to meetup with friends for drinks this evening; but thanks to a last minute phonecall, her evening was spent troubleshooting a problem that wasn’t really hers to fix.

You see, she’s in charge of accounts for a MNC that uses a 3rd party software (*cough.. ORACLE…*cough cough) to manage transactions under her account. It turned out that 207 post-dated transactions that were supposed to have been processed this evening failed to go through. Why, you ask? because of yet another technical problem.

Now. She tells me she has a team of 30 consultants in India under her charge to make sure the software works. These people aren’t simple minded ho-hum types; they’re certified consultants trained to troubleshoot the software.

30 consultants!

I’ve seen the software she’s using and boy does it need re-work. She gave me a run down of what its supposed to do; and frankly, I can see that it doesn’t work. 10 minutes to submit a report with 7 fields. 15 minutes to generate a summary report. you’d think its the 1970’s we’re talking about, but no, its very much 2007 software.

Which begs the question: if usable software were developed and these technical support crew were no longer needed, is it really justified? I mean, these technical support types would be out of a job! no more bread to bring back to the family.. well..ok, maybe bread is fine, but definitely no nutella or jam to spread.

Same thing with organizations running Windoze vs Mac OS. The technical support team would easily be halved if everyone just chose to run a different platform. A friend from a local Mac mailing list told me that he installed a Information Kiosk at Changi Airport in the early 1980s; the machine only required occassional re-boots for maintenance and it was running well up till its D.O.A. in the late 90’s.

Can you imagine? no software upgrades, no monthly patches. just power down the machine and reboot, which, anyone can do.

So, which would you choose: usable software or an opportunity to feed a tech crew’s family?

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