I remember my first exposure to a new core system product developed on a client/server platform. It was nearly nine years ago when I saw the EastPoint product demonstration on a cold New England day. Clearly, this was the technology that would blow away the legacy products and challenge the mid-range products for market share.
My expectations of new products are modest, expecting the rigors of the market to drive rich functionality over time. This looked like a product that had been through five or six years of customer feedback and many product maintenance life cycles.
OSI and Phoenix International soon had competing products available for sale and began competing for customers. Each company grabbed attention by making the same four promises:
Promise #1: This system is so intuitive and easy to use, your employees can learn it in minutes, resulting in fewer mistakes and lower training cost.
Promise #2: Client/server technology can be delivered for a fraction of the cost of comparable legacy or mid-range system costs.
Promise #3: Client/server technology is easy to operate by non-technical bank staff.
Promise #4: All of your customers’ information is stored on a relational database, and any information can be easily gathered and reported by non-technical staff.
Banks salivated over the opportunity to finally “fix” their technology problems with a solution that appeared to be the same as installing and using Microsoft Word. Buy the box, take off the plastic wrapping, put the CD in the drive and click on the “Set Up” icon. Unfortunately, it just isn’t that easy.
So how many promises were kept? Unfortunately just the first one – these systems really are easy to use. The new graphical interface (or more correctly, graphical user interface, GUI) was and still is a hit. This technology has dramatically improved the usability of all systems. In fact, it is so popular, every legacy and mid-range vendor quickly put GUI interfaces on their products, making them indistinguishable from the pioneer client/server products. Great job by the new guys on the block!
Promise #2? Punt. The bids we see from the C/S vendors continue to meet and often exceed costs from legacy and mid-range providers. I just don’t see that changing in the future.
Promise #3? Forget it. Your bank must absolutely have at least two expensive technologists to operate these systems. Betty in the back room can’t do it!
Promise #4? Unh unh, nope, can’t be done by mere mortals. It is true the information is in the database and is reportable by someone who understands the structure of the information. Huge failures to provide ready-made report shells that meet many of the typical needs and can be easily modified to meet additional reporting needs.
Interesting consequence of this failure is the reaction of the other vendors. They now produce products that look like, feel like, taste like and are marketed as client/server systems.
They aren’t, but can you tell the difference?