Monday, February 05, 2007

Business applications are the devil's work

Monday, February 05, 2007

Anyone who spends a significant amount of time managing great wads of data for a living will know exactly what I mean. Business applications are clearly designed by robots who will never have to use them, for people who spend 8+ hours a day pleading with the retched things to do as they're told.

Take the Oracle E-Business Suite for example. Firstly it's designed to run inside a web browser which, let's face it, wasn't the most forward thinking decision ever made considering most corporate users are obliged to use Internet Explorer on their AOL-style, walled garden systems.

As if that wasn't bad enough, it's a Java application. Yes, the same Java home users hastily disable altogether on their home computers to avert a psychologically damaging web based encounter with one of these toe-curling applets. The same Java platform human web designers abandoned back in 1996, 1. because everybody hates them, and 2. because they have the resource guzzling clout to bring a small country to its knees.

And every little task takes so damn long to carry out. Pressing the print button won't print a purchase order. Oh no, that would be too easy. There's a whole chapter of the manual dedicated to the procedure. Once you've done it a few times, you can do it with your eyes shut, but that's not the point. Why does it have to be so longwinded? Is the intention to evoke a sense of penitence? Are the Catholics behind it?

Make a simple mistake and there's no going back. If you've committed your changes you can't simply return to a field and, let's say, replace an A with a B. It's not uncommon to be confronted with ever so helpful tool tips like, "I'm sorry, you've made your bed and will have to lie in it (complete with accompanying Nelson-ha-ha). To adjust this field you must clamber up all five peaks of the Kangchenjunga mountain range with a ten tonne boulder strapped to your tender bits, leap through a dozen flaming hoops whilst balancing a kerosine-soaked chimpanzee on your nose and play the Lithuanian national anthem backwards with a bagpipe fashioned from a dodo's digestive system when you reach the summit". That's a genuine quote.

Fashionista favourite, 'random', is currently being shoehorned into every conceivable sentence in a vain attempt to sound chic, but if ever there was an appropriate occasion to use it, it's to describe Oracle. No two clicks are ever the same. Sometimes they'll action a change. At other times the same two clicks will cause your session to spontaneously terminate.

More infuriating still, getting a change to stick, or coercing a field to accept a keystroke, often requires you to enter a seemingly unrelated menu, untick a box, save your work, exit the menu, re-enter the menu, re-tick the box, save and withdraw from the menu again and finally return to the field you want to stick some trivial bit of information in.

To make doubly sure everything goes smoothly it doesn't hurt to offer up a small sacrifice (a hamster or goldfish is fine) to an effigy of the divine Oracle god.

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