Daniel Chalef is chief executive of KnowledgeTree, a cloud-based document management service.
For the past 50 years, companies built and bought software to automate every aspect of their business – from finance and HR to operations and production. And the result has been tremendous efficiency gains and enhanced control.
But as enterprise software’s use expanded, it grew bloated. It became too complex to address specific business problems. It became too inflexible for teams to adapt as needs changed. And it became too large for business users to choose and deploy a solution without long-lead times.
Today, nimble software vendors are growing in the enterprise at breathtaking speeds. Mobile, social and consumer trends have radically shifted business users’ expectations of what enterprise software should be. The new enterprise software reality is geared specifically to business users and has flexibility at its core. Enterprise software vendors must take note. To borrow from Marc Andreessen, the new enterprise software is eating enterprise software.
Here are the 10 commitments vendors must adhere to in the new enterprise software reality:
1. Be Purpose Driven. Enterprise software is bought for discrete business needs – to manage inventories, boost collaboration, or automate marketing, for example. Overly complex enterprise software has lost its purpose in a drive to add more features. Get a rigorous focus on the process that business users are trying to make more efficient.
2. Let Users Try it First. Presentations, videos, and sales calls can paint a great picture. But until the software is actually used, customers don’t know whether it will support their people and processes. Let users try your technology for free. Too complicated for a free trial? Maybe your software isn’t focused enough.
3. Give Fast Time to Value. Enterprise software’s history is filled with multi-year deployments that cost millions and failed to deliver. Business users ought to feel productivity gains as soon as they start your tool. And if they can see the value in your trial, even better.
4. Offer Sensible Pricing. Business users need to make intelligent evaluations of software. That requires an understanding of pricing. But opaque pricing models, complex contracting, hidden capital costs, and dozens of SKUs prolongs sales cycles and keeps the value away from end users.
5. Build for Scale. Consumerized tools often struggle to deal with the scale business users need. That’s because scale means more than handling large volumes of traffic. It also means managing authentication, security, and teamwork across thousands of employees. IT needs tools that support these large scale deployments.
6. Support Business Anywhere. Business users are always on the move. That means data and tools can’t be locked away from teams behind firewalls. Enterprise software must be friendly with the cloud, mobile devices, and other secure modes of accessing information.
7. Deliver Insight. It’s not enough to support a business process. Enterprise software must help improve it. That means enterprise software must generate insight built on analytics that help teams correct inefficiencies and replicate successes. That requires intelligence that is actionable from your software.
8. Be Socially Aware. Enterprises are built from teams and individuals. If groups can’t collaborate, work stops. Enterprise software doesn’t just add a “like” button; it gives tools and insights that make teams efficient.
9. Support Customization. Nothing fits well right out of the box. That includes software. Processes, descriptions, organizations, and more need to be tailored to your business to make them useful. But depending on lengthy redevelopment projects to do so is a major disruption – especially as your business evolves. Enterprise software must be easily customizable by the people that use it.
10. Connect to the Enterprise: Your business is part of an interconnected ecosystem. Enterprise software is the same. The information your tools generate is often most valuable when surfaced in other technologies. Like customer proposals appearing in your sales force automation tool. Through interfaces it can readily connect to other tools for a more complete business picture.
Business has changed and the expectations of users have too. Software vendors must rededicate themselves to a rigorous focus on the end-user – accounting for how they research, buy, use, customize, and get value from tools.