Recently, I found myself having a discussion and reading an article about the value of “lean” software. The concept of “lean” is informed by a philosophy of minimalism: don’t let software get bogged down by adding niche features, don’t attempt to reinvent popular conventions, be sure to keep the focus narrow and, most importantly, do what you do extremely well.

Executing this concept is tough. On the one hand if a system lacks table stakes functionality the marketplace will pass on a product when they complete their feature comparison grid. On the other hand if too much is added, you might earn those check marks at the expense of usability; a cluttered, difficult-to-learn system will slow adoption and end users will hate the product.

Finding the right mix is like getting the water temperature just right.

Other industries have experienced this as well. Remember when fast food chains seemed to offer an ever growing menu of options to the bewilderment of their customers? Go to Jack in the Box and you can purchase egg rolls alongside your french fries and tacos. Besides confusing the customer about what exactly defines Jack in the Box as a brand, none of the food was executed very well.  Then along came Chipotle with it’s minimal menu of just a few interchangeable ingredients. It not only enhanced their brand but it also let them focus on their core competency: delivering consistently fresh tasting food at fast food prices. They accomplished this by keeping their menu and list of ingredients “lean.”

When looking for a solution (agency management or otherwise), before getting hung up on feature comparisons, consider thinking about which system will complement and enhance your existing workflow while not disrupting your employees’ day. Select the solution that addresses your explicit needs most efficiently and cuts the clutter. While a taco with fries can be tasty, sometimes all you’re looking for is a burrito.

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