The Consumerization of Enterprise Software

Changing landscape of Technology world

For longest time since the evolution of enterprise software space, companies like IBM, Oracle and SAP have led the movement and made great software suites which had bunch of features bundled to solve problems encountered by employees in different companies across the sectors.

All the products were evaluated and selected based on list of features with a checklist on bunch of items in comparisons. The features were added just to stay ahead of competition, without much thought to end-user experience.

A few years ago, when I had to use Lotus Notes as Mail client, it felt like a monolithic relic where even the simple task of account setup required assistance from the IT Support Team. The product was neither intuitive nor user friendly. The feedback of users who spent hours on the product was never taken into account in the product evolution as they were not part of decision making. Also, there is a huge learning process associated with Enterprise products where consumers are often provided with guides for configuration and usage.

With the rise of Apple, it has become evident that consumers love great designs and some products are worthy of worship. Now everyone uses great consumer apps like twitter, Flipboard, pulse, etc. with amazing design available at one touch. Inspired by these, in the last few years, there has been a wave of Enterprise product start-ups, especially in the SaaS space. Evernote, Trello and Dropbox are a few of these that provide great customer experience.

As more and more professionals embrace the BYOD culture — especially sales and marketing, which are visibly moving away from desktops and even laptops and going mobile with cellphones and tablets — there is greater need for such applications.

New Enterprises software, especially in the SaaS space, have seen hockey stick exponential growth primarily because they were loved by user. One great example I see of an app disrupting old way of collaboration and communication is Slack. Recently, someone recommended me to use it to reduce clutter and noise seen in Emails. After just a week of use, I am a great fan of it and now pushing for using it at our firm. This is one application which was loved by users and has slowly made inroads within enterprises because of end-user advocacy.

Unfortunately, not many enterprises have really adopted this consumerization path but they are being pushed by budding start-ups and a great demand from consumers. But, as they evolve and realign to new realities, Product owners will have to keep following key pieces in consideration:

  1. Mobile UX: The companies have to re-design products fully for a truly great mobile experience. It can not be just a set of features and should be a seamless and intuitive user flow.
  2. Optimizing User Workflows: Typically enterprise products have huge configurations and setting flows which need lot of effort and have learning curve. All these complex user flow and rules have to simplified for easier onboarding and management.
  3. De-bundling of services: The apps are simple and focused on getting few dedicated features right. The enterprise product features will have to be de-bundled into independent services like Facebook has unbundled Messenger or Linkedin has Job Search, connections, etc.

Most of the enterprise software need to be re-designed for these touch devices; for large corporations the migration costs will will be huge both in terms of time and money. We are seeing some initiative in the direction with IBM-Apple partnership for bringing enterprise products to iPad. These initiatives will only gain momentum as mobile devices become the primary device for all requirements. The shift might be gradual, but inevitable.