Why Do the Hottest Things Lose Their Mojo So Quickly?

By | Strategic HR | Leave a comment

breaking bad

This past summer three of my favorite TV shows ended: Breaking Bad, Dexter, and Burn Notice. Each one was very successful yet only one remained on top until the very end. Why is that? Did the others lose their way or just ride out the series like a cash cow?

As far as the reasons behind the failures of Dexter and Burn Notice, they are a matter of personal opinion. Dexter clearly had jumped the shark and, given the series plot, it got less real with each additional microscope slide. As for Burn Notice, in my opinion, it tried to be like the competition and turned from a fun campy A-Team-like show to a lame spy thriller.

Breaking Bad stuck to the plan and surprised the audience regularly – right to the end. And they went into it knowing that the show had a time limit (5 seasons).

The same can be said for Technology Applications – whether it be smart phone apps or HCM ERPs. Very few stay on the cutting edge very long. By the time you have adopted the new hot ERP it is no longer the new hot ERP.  This probably also has to do with implementation time.  In many cases, the successful ERP is being milked by the owner. But frankly, once you become the popular app all internal focus is diverted from innovation and moved to implementation and support.

I think the trend towards SaaS and cloud will change that. First, with SaaS and cloud, implementation time is much shorter. Second, the emphasis is on continuing updates, hopefully meaning continuing innovation.

The cloud and new software development technologies have lowered the price of admission to the business application market, producing a number of innovative products. Traditional ERP apps (i.e., the SAPs of the world) often took years to develop and test.  These new niche apps are often much smaller and come to market very quickly. The SaaS model also gives them enormous agility, being able to adapt quickly to trends in the market.

However, sometimes quick-to-market can also mean unproven or untested. Particularly for companies that go the venture capital route. The new funds are often spent on marketing and not product. When people give you money they tend to tell you what to do with it. The proof was on display at HR Tech this year with several small startup companies making huge splashes with overly large exhibits. Yet the software is not yet ready for prime time. You do not want to choose a new software product that uses the SaaS update theme to correct bugs.

Only time will tell, but I predict that the good will outweigh the bad and the ugly and these new SaaS products, especially those designed and engineered for quality, will last longer than the prior cycle of applications because they were built to adapt to change.

The same can be said for popular TV shows. Many shows are unwilling to increase the investment in the successful writing team and instead focus on advertising and actors’ salaries. Breaking Bad, the best of the three, ended according to a predefined schedule. Of course this kills my analogy.  Perhaps the best software will be the one that is honest and says, “This will only last you 5 years, but it will be great for those 5 years. After that you can just rerun the same codebase and tune in to the next hot show.”


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