Form vs. Function: Does this decision matter anymore?

Does the argument of form vs. function hold any relevance in the modern landscape of technology management and development? Some would argue no. I would say that it has more relevancy than ever as businesses face a sea of options for moving a business' technology plan forward. We recently engaged with a client that brought us in to move a web application to a different platform. After about an hour or so of discussion, I felt compelled to ask the question, "It seems like what you have is what you want functionally, why you want to rewrite this software from the beginning?"

While I saw the benefits of this move and my mind raced with future upgrade possibilities, I realized that they hadn't built the case for the change yet. So what was the purpose of this change? On the surface there was not a substantial business case to rebuild this application. I began to drill deeper and found requirements for mobile accessibility, future app development, and increased intuitiveness that if built into an ROI model to show tangible benefits could make sense. After an independent assessment based on some provided data, I was able to clearly outline what I believed would be a 2.5x return on the initiative.

If they had not wanted to go in those recommended directions, or didn't see the benefit, this would have been a serious waste of corporate finances. Companies need to be wary of shiny object syndrome from the get go. Believe me, I don't want to be the fuddy duddy in the room either but if software is going to be rebuilt from the ground up at a serious expense with little additional benefit, it's not only a bad idea for the organization who has commissioned the work, it's a bad idea for Unleashed to be associated with it.


So when does it make sense to revisit software? 

Simple questions and straight forward answers will get you down the right path almost immediately. 

  1. Does the current technology in place limit your capability to expand into required areas of growth? 
  2. Is the current platform workflow prohibitive? If so, is it a more financially sound decision to take the software in a new direction for the long term?
  3. Does the existing system pose continual challenges in reliability?
  4. What are the direct benefits that you can assess from changing your technology platform and starting over? Examples would be: increased sales, faster workflow for higher productivity, a more robust platform, increased integration or task automation.

Number four on the list is endless and really focused on the details of the particular initiative at hand. The examples provided above are general thoughts that come into play for the consideration of most web application efforts.

You may also notice that I didn't list "reduction in cost" as one of the key questions. This is definitely something that could be true if you're coming from a license-heavy software platform, but shouldn't be your primary driving factor unless your company is really feeling the pain of over committed licensing costs on an annual basis. Instead, you should be focused on the net return on investment or clear benefits from reworking the software.

Be wary of all software development companies and do this analysis on your own while reviewing their thoughts and comments on the initiative. Like all industries, the web is an art form, and just like painters want a clean canvas so do we. That doesn't always mean it makes sense to execute on re-doing a slightly aging internet presence. If form meets required function with ability to expand (at a reasonable expense) it usually doesn't need a rewrite. If it does that's when you call us.