Most of us were educated or trained that “form follows function.”  A good guiding principle to be sure.  Allowing for the observation that this rules-out serendipity entirely, I’ve been part of a recent investigation into sales automation platforms that has reminded me that there is always an opposing theory.  Specifically, Saleforce.com presentation in which we just particiapted.

If there is a single feature that impresses more than any other feature, it is the ability of this tool to manage a sales pipeline and to make the milestones a particular prospect, or set of prospects, more visible.  It suggests a structure.  For the nascent sales operation, this “suggested structure” is an example that sometimes form can lead function.  With this tool, and many other software tools, we do things because the software designer thought it would be a good idea.  In reality, these tools are based on industry best practices…”oh, is this what we are supposed to be doing?  Well, let’s get busy.”

Short of becoming a slave to the tool, we are often helped by the predetermined data fields, templates, rules and overall structure of the “form.”  The other thing I’m noticing is the way these products are accepted and often adopted into our lives or business work styles.  Ideally, there is that “this is what I’ve always wanted” moment.  Realistically, that is often followed by the gradual understanding that the product may be difficult to use, can’t do exactly what we want or doesn’t work well with other products or business processes.  The 2.0 version always does more and handles some of this.  The 3.0 version builds in additional features, more customization and still better user interface.  Form continues to drive, or at least enable function.

At least in some ways, things aren’t always as simple, or cut-and-dried, as they used to be.  Function can follow form..and that’s a good thing.