The Greatest Software Ever Written
InformationWeek (8/14/2006, www.information.com) ran a cover story last week by the same title as this post. They looked at all manner of software (e.g., Big Blue's chess software)to come up with their list.
I decided to focus on very narrow niche: finance/accounting and HR solutions. While not scientific, here are my choices for history's best in back office software (and why):
- PeopleSoft HR - In 1989, when this product debuted, no one (and I mean no one) had a commercial software product in a Windows 3.0 GUI. This was a real client-server product and it looked remarkably different from anything else on the market at that time. Green-screen vendors of HR solutions were caught totally flat-footed by its arrival and even tried to get an injunction against PSFT.
- VisiCalc, Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect - These were the three horsemen of the personal computing era. Sure they were first movers that got clobbered by the MSFT Office machine but for some time, these were the killer apps that got thousands of businesses to spend $5k-10K to buy 8086, 80286 and 80386 personal computers. Honorable mentions to Lotus Notes and Aldus PageMaker.
- Walker Interactive Systems - This firm was the first to come out with a user definable code block. It was 50 characters in length and could be segmented in up to 11 user-definable chunks. Boy, I lost of hours of my life installing these but they were a quantum leap forward from the old fixed code blocks (company/cost center/account) of competing products. Later products from PeopleSoft and Oracle blew past the Walker code block capabilities.
- SunAccount from SunSystems - This product got installed in more countries and on more platforms than vendors 10X their size. This product was great for remote foreign country implementations back when the Internet wasn't so ubiquitous and most vendors were limited to home country sales and support.
- R/2 from SAP - Here's a product with roots back to 1979. It was a highly integrated ERP solution (when so many other competitors offered loosely stitched together or interfaced products) that eventually set new standards in ERP product design.
- IMRS Micro-Control from Hyperion - This product was at one time installed in the CFO suite of almost every Fortune 500 firm. It was the best for consolidating financial system data at a time when most report writers lacked even basic roll-up structures. The Consco product (CA acquired it) could have won this category but it just didn't get the market share that IMRS did. Adaytum's product appears to have eclipsed both in later years.
- Report Writers - tie - If I had to cast a vote I'd probably give the nod to Cognos although Business Objects has been a solid competitor for years. This category continues to evolve and I'm not sure the biggest breakthroughs have occurred yet especially when regulatory requirements are growing daily, corporate governance rules are increasing, analytics are a huge business need, etc.
- Killer Auditing software - No winners here. I'm not sure why there haven't been more products here over the years. I will see what else develops before voting on this.
I'll stop here for now (my conference call is starting); however, I urge each of you to ping me with your votes.