IT users want software that is powerful, easy-to-use and install.  Can anyone argue with statement?  If we can all agree that this is one of the goals of users, then why are there so many solutions in the market that don’t meet this fundamental requirement? Why are so many vendors putting out expensive, hard to use and difficult to install products?

It is my opinion that the core of the problem is that most suppliers sell software, under the auspices of being “powerful” or “flexible” that simply cannot be used “out of the box”. Perhaps they do this because they also sell professional services that provide greater financial gain.  With many suppliers, professional services are needed just to get the software “deployed”, and are couched under the customization umbrella, when in reality it’s building the software out to do what you thought you were buying in the demo.

An example of this hard-to-use problem is illustrated by one of the log management vendors, Splunk.  Based upon a recent review of Splunk it would appear that what you get is plenty of complexity and less out-of-the-box value.  Below are just a few of the direct quotes from this review:

“If you want to make Splunk work, you’ve got to be ready to abandon the slick GUI and dive deep into difficult technical configuration, editing configuration files, writing regular expressions, and taking the time to understand where your data are coming from and how Splunk will see them"

“We got Splunk working very smoothly in our multi-vendor environment, but only after investing serious effort in understanding how Splunk collect and indexes data."

“Overall, getting data into Splunk is much more of your typical open source experience with a confusing maze of pointers, wikis, product tech notes and documentation…"

“The Search manual is 289 pages long, and starts with Splunk's idea of the top search commands you have to learn…there are almost 125 search commands."


Now to be fair, the reviewer had many positive things to say about the product, but these comments above illustrate a core problem.  Just because the product is powerful doesn’t justify the need to make it hard-to-use.  Do they not agree with the customer’s goals of powerful, easy-to-use, and install?

By no means is SolarWinds perfect in this regard. I’m sure you could pick at many things in our products that aren’t the easiest to use, but I will say this, when we know a feature is causing problems in the product we will focus on reworking it so it becomes easier, but I never hear that of other vendors.  Will Splunk shorten the search command list so it’s easier to use?  Will they make it easier so I don’t have to dive into deep technical configuration editing to get value out of the data?  Maybe they will, but most likely like many other vendors those ‘powerful features’ will remain in the product for years to come.

What do you think, are we listening to you and creating better, more powerful, easy to use software?