It's Features not Usability that Sells Products

The blog postings have been a little thin over the last fortnight as I’ve been holidaying in one of those chic designer hotels. You know. The ones that have Zen styling, Eastern spa treatments, candle-lit rooms, designer landscaping, etc.

Of course in practice such styling is entirely impractical: shelves at the wrong height; darkened rooms you can’t read in; sunken baths that take an hour to fill; Japanese gardens that are a maze to navigate. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. We’d gladly suffer this inconvenience in the interests of style and one-upmanship. Because it’s the “wow factor” and the exclusive features that sells products. Not simplicity and utility.

It’s the same with IT and Security. Organisations rarely go for cheap, functional products. We look for the brand name, the fancy features and the Gartner rating of “completeness of vision”. This in turn makes big vendors and start-up technology companies focus on unnecessary functionality, standards and architectural potential. Their inclination is to develop new product features that will attract new customers, rather than perfecting simple, tried-and-tested functions that might delight existing clients. Which is why, over the years, vendors have been able to sell us security systems for authentication, risk analysis and identity management that have been less than fit-for-purpose.

And in the end, do we get the products we deserve? Unfortunately, yes. Of course it’s no bad thing that security standards and features continue to evolve. But we’d just prefer them to be a little more relevant to our day-to-day business problems.