Blake Snow

writer-for-hire, content guy, bestselling author

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Forcing employees to use internal and inferior software is pointless

A study last June (via Business 2.0) revealed that more than 2/3 of all Microsoft employees used Google search instead of internally-bred MSN Search. The reason is obvious, but I bet MS employees are constantly pressured into using MSN over Google, despite the latter being superior (not to mention more efficient. So in a lot of ways, Microsoft could actually save money by openly allowing Google search. Isn’t that called a paradox or something?).

In working for AOL as a freelance blogger, I felt similar pressure, albeit very minor, when our company’s social bookmarking software, Netscape, was first launched to compete against/alongside Digg. Sure, Netscape does some great things, but it’s inferior in the sense that Digg fosters a much larger community that drives a lot more site traffic. What was once requests for “Digg” traffic at AOL started becoming requests for “Digg/Scape” traffic in what appeared to be an artificial attempt to increase the userbase. No harm in this, and again, we were in no way “forced” to use Netscape, but I did feel slight political pressure to use it alongside Digg. The act always felt a bit forced as Digg and its organic traffic were the real reason for the traffic submitting requests in the first place.

A couple of years ago, Griffio built an internal web project management application in PHP to help keep tabs on our company projects. It was good software, and we spent a significant amount of time designing and building it. But it wasn’t as good as Base Camp, 37 Signals’ project management software. Wisely, we started using it over our own. It would have been shortsighted on my part to force or socially pressure my employees to use our software (not to mention myself) over Base Camp despite the sunk investment cost of our internal product. So with exception to material costs, I can’t think of a logical reason when an inferior product should be used over superior one.

Granted, many times this could simply be “awkwardness” when what you’re building or offering isn’t as good as a competitor’s product. Perhaps your product is better suited for a different audience. But whatever the scenario, nothing is gained by forcing or pressuring one’s employees into using company built products when cost isn’t an issue. Better yet, ask your employees why they prefer the alternative to enhance your offering. That’s free advice straight from the end-user.

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