Tapas, Top Sirloin & Construction Software

I suspect that a number of my readers have been through the city of Amarillo, Texas, and some probably live there. But if you aren’t one of them, let me introduce you to The Big Texan Steak House. This is the original “if you can eat it, it’s free” establishment, home of the legendary 72 oz. top sirloin steak. Eat it in one hour, and it costs you nothing (well, no money, anyway).

I suspect that even more of my readers have been to, or live in, Las Vegas, NV. When I think of Vegas, I think of two things—tradeshows and tapas. My trips to this city are usually motivated by a construction industry tradeshow or conference, but when there I try to work in a visit to my favorite tapas restaurant—Firefly. For those not familiar, tapas are small plates or appetizers with their origin in Spanish cuisine.

By now you may be wondering:

  1. What these two things have to do with each other
  2. What either have to do with construction management

Well, as frequent readers know, I think a lot about how changes in technology affect our industry, and I believe cloud computing is one of the biggest changes to occur in a number of years. I’ve written quite a bit about the cloud, to the point that I thought I’d mostly exhausted my thoughts and opinions about the topic. That was before one day earlier this week when the cities of Amarillo and Las Vegas both found their way to my desk—the first relating to a client, the second relating to my upcoming trip to participate in the World of Concrete trade show.

Later that day, getting hungry, I recalled these cities and their restaurants. I remembered my first visit to The Big Texan and remembered ordering my first tapas and sangria at Firefly. I considered how both places could fill you up and top you off, but in very different ways. And it struck me that the way software is changing is analogous to the differences between these two ways of eating.

The traditional way construction business software is delivered is a bit like that 72oz top sirloin. New releases are large and take a while to digest—it takes time to get all your users trained on many new features that are all delivered at once. For example, if you have ever upgraded to a new version of Microsoft Office, you know how long it takes you to figure out how to do all the things you used to know how to do all over again.

With software delivered via the cloud, developers can make changes in a smaller more frequent fashion. Like tapas, changes and improvements can be delivered in bite-sized portions. Cloud computing makes this possible because it takes the onus of the upgrade out of the hands of the user. There are no new disks to install, files to download, or client software to update every time a change is made. And it is much easier to learn a few new things more frequently than having to relearn an entire suite of applications in one sitting.

If I had to choose my favorite—steak or tapas—I’d be hard pressed. Sometimes I want a top sirloin and a cold beer, sometimes I feel like the variety that a tapas restaurant delivers. But when it comes to software I’m certain I prefer my updates in smaller portions.

How do you feel about software? Do you look forward to the big releases or do you prefer incremental improvements?

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