Thursday, September 7

It had to be said: MYOB is a worst-case in software design

Nat over at Decisive Flow has broken the silence at last; MYOB (Mind Your Own Business) is easily the worst example of design in a popular software product available in Australia. It had to be said, and I'm sure I'm one of millions of small business owners who mutters several expletives every time they launch the product.

MYOB doesn't let me 'mind' my own business at all, it actually makes me shy away from the financial management of my business. There's nothing I hate doing more than using MYOB - I'd willingly stand in a customer service queue at the Department of Small Business for three hours rather than spend an hour using MYOB - and I'd almost certainly be more satisfied with what I'd achieved in that time!

Unfortunately there's little to no incentive for MYOB to improve their product. Only one competitor in the small business accounting software market, QuickBooks, and - incredible but true - it's actually harder to use and as marginally functional as MYOB. And accounting software is one of the few market segments in the software industry to remain local and parochial - you can't develop a new accounting software package in Australia and then easily export it overseas. Accounting and tax practices vary so much from country to country that localisation costs are huge. Even the big, hairy gorilla, Microsoft, has half-implemented a poor localisation of Microsoft Money for the Australian market, presumably because the costs of doing it properly are too great for such a small market.

Finally, MYOB must earn significant revenue from selling hard-to-use software - many MYOB owners I know have reluctantly signed up for one of MYOB's expensive premium telephone support subscriptions. Two MYOB owners I know have learned enough about the product over sufficient time that they've started clawing back that investment by offering their services trouble-shooting other friend's MYOB problems on an hourly rate.

Even though my own business is tiny, I've taken to using a book keeper once a month to do it all for me - she's my firewall between my business and MYOB. It means I never have to launch MYOB again. But there it sits on my hard disk anyway - a 107Mb fat lump of lard - so that my book keeper can send me the updated data file every month. If she gets hit by a bus I need to have it on file to take to the next book keeper. I don't even get to forget that I own the software, because every month I get some junk mail in my PO Box from MYOB, reminding me to pay an exorbitant fee to upgrade the software, or induce me to cross-grade to a related product, or even invite me to pay through the nose to attend further training courses. All this while it's such a bad product I pay someone else to use it for me.

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