Spin Unspun - How Productive Is Software Really?

By Sean Gallagher  |  Posted 2002-04-15 Print this article Print

Software productivity claim could be 99% comical, 1% truth.

In its marketing, Inktomi, the search and content management software vendor, is shouting, "Productivity is 1% effort and 99% software." The company points to a study from IDC which, among other things, found that "for every 1,000 knowledge workers, your enterprise wastes $7.5 million a year looking for and reworking information that already exists."

That software can provide that big a boost to productivity is hardly likely. "That's clearly an exaggeration," says Louis Columbus, a senior analyst at AMR Research.

"99 to 1 is completely contrary to any experience we've had," says Lisa Higgins of the American Productivity and Quality Center in Houston, a nonprofit center that works with business customers on work-process improvement. "While technology is an enabling factor, the people and the processes are where the real returns come from. Without the people and the process, (software) would be worthless."

Also part of the equation: training, experience, and passion about work.

"You could have the most brilliant financial analyst in the world, and give him all sorts of tools," says Columbus. "But if he thinks he should really be a salesman and doesn't want to be behind a desk, it's not going to matter."

Inktomi vice president Steve Diamond says the claim is meant to grab attention, but is actually a play on the Thomas Edison assertion that "genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."

Sean Gallagher is editor of Ziff Davis Internet's enterprise verticals group. Previously, Gallagher was technology editor for Baseline, before joining Ziff Davis, he was editorial director of Fawcette Technical Publications' enterprise developer publications group, and the Labs managing editor of CMP's InformationWeek. A former naval officer and former systems integrator, Gallagher lives and works in Baltimore, Maryland.

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