Roi Carthy of TechCrunch posted an article recently after speaking with Eran Manor, SohoOS’s lead designer, that ended on the high note, “The thinking here is that providing [invoicing, billing features, CRM, inventory & project management] to a sufficient depth allows SohoOS to appeal to a larger userbase. With the US, UK, and the EU constituting 54% of the userbase, this is a smart move.”
Let’s get one thing straight: Users, “growing at a rate of 30% month-over-month,” doesn’t say anything about retention, satisfaction, or the utility of the service. Amid the hype I became one of the more than 400,000 users that their front page boasts, only to find that what is presented as a product in Beta is little more than a, “reverse engineered…iPad app”, it is a “service” that lures you in and then doesn’t let you out.
According to Carthy’s article, SohoOS has discovered that small businesses:
• Don’t consider accounting software a substitute for an accountant
• Don’t see accounting as the heart and soul of their businesses’ management activities.
To the first point, it seems unlikely that small businesses feel duped for using both an accountant and software programs programs. An accounting program allows for day-to-day entries to be recorded so that when the time comes for tax filing an accountant can easily collect the necessary information.
To the second, accounting certainly isn’t the heart of business management but it is a necessary part.
This, I believe, is where SohoOS has lost sight of their audience. Carthy even praises SohoOS for, “focusing on several services that are key to the daily management of a small business,” rather than “the conventional wisdom, of ‘do one thing and do it well’.”
My criticism for SohoOS then is twofold:
1. The result of trying to take on so many traditionally divided tasks is a cluttered interface that seems lost between invoicing features and priced-t0-sell business document templates.
2. The term ‘Beta’ has fallen victim to semantic satiation and companies like SohoOS are to blame. Beta used to mean an essentially finished product that leaves room for rapid user-oriented change, but now simply means ‘something we’ve put together and are still working on defining’.
If a company doesn’t have a clearly defined vision of itself, there is no way that a customer can see future potential. Perhaps my cynicism toward the ‘do everything well’ model will turn out to be the mark of a dying philosophy but until a service like SohoOS pushes companies that ‘do one thing and do it well’ aside, I won’t be investing.
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