We love to hate software
Who among us hasn't cursed software? Yet when software works as designed, we don't give it a second thought—it's transparent: part of our surroundings, part of the process, part of us.Users don't want to think about the interface, configuration, where data comes from, or where it's going.
Who among us hasn't cursed software? Yet when software works as designed, we don't give it a second thought—it's transparent: part of our surroundings, part of the process, part of us.
Users don't want to think about the interface, configuration, where data comes from, or where it's going. If we have time, learning new software can be interesting, even fun. Usually, though, we don't want to spend much, if any, time training. Ideally, software should configure itself and figure out what we want it to do, before we realize what it should be doing.
We expect software to help fill extraordinary business needs. Unpredictability of markets, competitors' agility, cost pressures, ever increasing customer demands are joined by disruptive leaps in technology that threaten to put unresponsive companies out of business in a year or less.
"Has business truly become unpredictable?" asks Christopher Larson, senior vp and general manager of SAP America. Bookstores were "Amazoned." Kodak film-market dominance means less in a world of digital images. If the trend continues, the outrageous challenge will be to profitably serve a single customer in zero time, says Mr. Larson; resources must focus on getting products and services to customers to create perceived value.
Steeplechase's president, Michael Klein, concurs, in recent comments about PC-based control software. "It's all about productivity," he says. "Inefficiency will be brutally punished."
Vendors, even the very large, continue to unite in efforts to bring more value to users. Gil Pareja, Fisher-Rosemount Systems, and president of OPC Foundation acknowledged, "Our industry has to move faster than it has moved in the past and be smarter in the tools we use.'' That comment came with the foundation's announced intent to use XML to improve communications.
Vendors continue to expand partner programs. Intellution president and ceo Steve Rubin recently described the importance of inviting system integrators into its collection of partners, starting with TAVA Technologies. This adds to Intellution's "Plug and Solve Enabled" developer program. Rockwell Automation advanced its system integrator program "to significantly increase the type and level of expertise available to provide systems capability," globally.
Where's it going?
Within a few years, almost all companies will be partnered, providing extra value. If you're not tied to partnering programs, you'll log into three or four web sites, grant permission for each to access your configurations, then receive competitive bids for an upgrade or installation based on a guaranteed return on investment.
If you're signed on as a preferred customer, upgrades will happen automatically, delivering more value, transparently, to your bottom line. Employee training, if needed at all, will be customized for each person's needs.
We're not quite there, but as fast as things are moving it won't be long. In the cover story, see how software already has become the "critical link,'' touching all areas of automation and control, and beyond. In other software articles in this issue, look at an enormous use of object technology and trends in control programming software.
Software—even when we love to hate it—is becoming a more transparent tool, helping us compete and succeed in an evermore-chaotic environment.
Mark T. Hoske, Editor-in-Chief, firstname.lastname@example.org