Nearly three years ago now, I decided to make big changes in my accounting. Over the years, I’d developed an Excel system for invoicing that had served me reasonably well. But its limitations were becoming increasingly obvious. Put simply, I was making too many mistakes in the bills I was sending out, which looked unprofessional and was making me all sorts of extra work.
I need a solution and I found it in LSP.expert, an online system that not only covered invoicing, it also stored client information and provided all kinds of interesting statistics. I tested it out alongside another accounting system designed for translators and I was instantly convinced that it would solve most of my problems. And so it has proved. After a little (but not too much) setting up, LSP made it possible to enter jobs quickly and easily, invoice them instantly and keep useful, informative records. I’ve been delighted with it and it has saved me hours of administrative work.
Fast-forward two years and I suddenly receive an e-mail. “The new version of LSP.expert is ready for you to try”. I was pleased, anticipating an even better online tool. I hurried to take up their offer to try it. Rarely have I been so disappointed. What on earth had they done?
Now, I know it’s easy to react badly to changes in software. When we’re used to a task having to be done a certain way, to suddenly find we have to do something different to achieve the same result is disconcerting, to say the least, and we often respond with a negative reaction. But this was far worse. Everything I tried to do was difficult, complicated and time-consuming – the exact reverse of the original version. I stuck with it for a week, before retreating to the old version and complaining to LSP. Their reaction was equally disappointing though. True, they invited me to explain exactly what I was having problems with so they could explain it to me. But they also made it clear that I wouldn’t be able to continue with the old version beyond the end of the year, and seemed quite happy for me to leave and find an alternative solution if I didn’t want to adapt.
I found it difficult to put my finger on exactly what was wrong. It seemed as if it was EVERYTHING. So I tried to focus on what I’d liked about LSP.expert in the first place. First of all, it was so easy to use, whether you wanted to create a job, a client profile or an invoice. And, if something wasn’t immediately obvious, it was so intuitive that working it out was normally no problem. During my two years as a user, I have had to contact the developers once or twice, but it’s always been to learn how to do things that were genuinely tricky. With the new version, it seemed I’d be on to them every five minutes. LSP seemed to have thrown out the principles on which they built their tool for the sake of a few new features (I didn’t see any obvious improvements for me, mind you) and a bit of styling. Or, as my colleague and fellow user Ana Carolina Ribeiro put it when we spoke about it, “They seem to have forgotten their unique selling proposition for freelancers, which is to remove the hassle from admin.”
That may be the crux of it. In my experience, it’s was freelancers who loved the original LSP.expert. But those who have been gushing in their praise for the new version – and praise there has certainly been – have been small agency owners, which suggests the new features have probably been aimed at them. But these same new features and options have cluttered the interfaces to such an extent that freelancers now have to waste precious time hunting for things that used to be simple to find.
To their credit, LSP have taken some notice of the complaints they have received, and they have improved one or two things. But I’m not yet convinced. I really don’t want to dump the tool, not least because of the inconvenience of having to switch and migrate all my records to a new one, but nor am I willing to go on paying a subscription for something that makes my life harder rather than easier. To me, this is giving in to the inertia LSP are counting on to keep even dissatisfied customers. My plan is to stick with the old version, which I’m told will be withdrawn towards the end of the year, until my subscription is close to running out. Then I’ll try the new one again and by that time enough changes will hopefully have been made for it to be usable. If it really isn’t, I’ll look for something else.
But it’s a sad story, with lessons to be learned, I think, for those producing this kind of tool. Because it’s far too easy when caught up in the excitement of adding bells and whistles to forget why people wanted to use your invention in the first place. And whatever some foolish people may believe, change is not always for the best. As the late, great country singer Guy Clark had it, there’s no substitute for “Stuff that Works“.