Friday, June 07, 2013

Careful Where You Point That Finger

Over the last 9 months, I have managed to shed almost 50lbs in weight - that in excess of 20Kg for those living in the metric world. As part of the process of losing weight, I took to tracking my walking and cycling habits using Endomondo on my phone - and what an excellent piece of software that is.

I did have a problem, though!

When I started the application and enabled GPS, I would wait quite a considerably amount of time before my location could be determined. Indeed, I had completed the bulk of some of my journeys by the time I got the "GPS Excellent" notification.

Initially, my thoughts went along these lines:

"Endomondo have coded their freebie application to not pick up my location in the hope that I will purchase the Pro version of their app"

I did purchase the Pro version - mostly because I thought the app was terrific with only a slight nod towards the hope that my GPS issues would be resolved. My GPS issues weren't resolved.

So I then thought:

"I must have dropped my phone at some point and 'disturbed' its ability to perform it's GPS magic"

This seemed like a reasonable thought as all my friends and colleagues and perfectly acceptable Endomondo experiences on their phones. Indeed, my Samsung Galaxy II seemed to be really struggling when compared to a colleague's Nexus - and they were both Android phones.

I figured it must be time for a new phone. And proceeded to spend the next couple of weeks evaluating my options. And then... I woke up one morning to discover that my phone wanted to apply an update to my Android operating system.

An hour or so later, I had a shiny new OS. Admittedly, performance was awful initially as all my apps needed updating too. And, all my icons had been resorted alphabetically (for which I could quite happily exact some kind of tortuous revenge on the developer of the upgrade process). Apart from the initial dodgy performance and the tears that followed the pain of re-organising my icons, I noticed two things:
  • Playing 7x7 was super-fast - 7x7 is one of those simple yet addictive games that can keep me going for hours
  • GPS performance was perfect!

Wonderful! When starting Endomondo Pro now, I have to wait no longer than 2 or 3 seconds before I have my "GPS Excellent" notification. And to think my problems were with the app or the phone.

So. What's the point of this story I hear you ask! Well, it is far too easy to make a judgement about an app, or a product or almost anything you might encounter during the course of your life. My problems had nothing to do with Endomondo's developers' coding ability; nor had it anything to do with how Samsung hardware technicians had put my phone together. Yet, even for a techie like me, my thought processes led me to think bad thoughts about both!

I have seen senior managers in enterprises make some very strange decisions in the past. They may decide that they no longer need "Huge Software Developer's Amazing IT Solution" because it costs too much and doesn't perform the way they expected and instead by "Enormous Software Developer's Stupendous IT Solution" in the anticipation that it will cost less and perform perfectly.

And frequently, I don't see the cost benefit and the performance problems still exist.

Sometimes the problems we are faced with in the IT world are not being caused by the applications we are using. Sometimes we need to dig a little deeper to find out what the real cause of a problem is - whether it be the hardware platform we are using; the operating system in use; the networking setup; the interfaces; and of course, the users and their expectations.

And finally... maybe some of the big boys can learn from the developers of the apps we now use on a daily basis on our smartphones. Endomondo does exactly what I need in a manner which makes sense for me. Can we say the same thing for enterprise software?

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