Building great enterprise products

An interesting phenomenon with the growth of consumer startups is its effect on the rise of startups building products which are trying to disrupt the enterprise space. Some of them like Workday and Palantir have achieved tremendous success with most of the others struggling to achieve buyers and stickiness. Old school enterprise sales teams will tell you that it’s all about the sell and stickiness is inevitable when the buyer uses a top-down approach which they eventually do to squeeze ROI out of the product. This is absolutely not true.

Here are my five basic principles product teams and enterprise sales teams should follow to truly build world-class enterprise products.

  1. Build an Enterprise product: Sounds simple, but I have seen way too many young companies build what was a consumer-facing product and stitch it together with some reporting functionality and sell it as an enterprise product. Stay true to the core and make a product designed for the enterprise.
  2. Do one thing really, really well: Your traditionally clunky enterprise products like ERPs (Oracle, SAP et al) and EHRs (EPIC et al) have increased their suite of products to make it a one-stop shop for the buyer. What is ridiculous is that they have bought best of breed products and after integrating them with their existing suite reduced them to an average product. Do one thing really, really well — solve a real problem and if you do decide to supplement your existing product line make sure there is a seamless integration.
  3. Build beautiful and functional products: Get rid of your 1980s graduate UX person and/engineer who is a makeshift UX designer and hire an entire team that builds intuitive products and tirelessly A/B tests all the moving pieces of your product. To ensure stickiness the product has to be functional and an extension of what the end consumer is used to interacting with in their day to day life. P.S. Get rid of any product in your suite that closely even resembles a terminal or a command prompt! No one wants to be on their smartphone/tablet in their personal lives and come to work to operate a character cell product.
  4. Integrate: Utilize existing customer APIs or existing vendor APIs to integrate with existing products that the organization uses. Something as simple as SSO increases stickiness dramatically.
  5. Make it easy for the buyer: Master the sell both from your company’s vantage point and the buyer’s. Most large scale product decisions are made through a decision committee these days. Making it easier for the buyer to sell internally is an important part of the product. A product that sells itself is almost never heard of in the enterprise space. Also, if ever the doubt of buy vs. build comes up you have not done justice to your product. If the buyer thinks throwing a few million dollars and a few engineers at their problem effectively does what your product does then you should rethink your sales strategy.