Building Enterprise Software is Actually Badass. Here’s Why.

by Joey Muething, Sr. Product Manager, Lucid

There’s a trend I’ve noticed during my last few college recruiting visits: Our developers start talking to excited computer science and software engineering students…and as soon as we reveal that we build enterprise platform and (business-to-business) B2B software, the lights start going out in their eyes. Why is enterprise and B2B such a turnoff for aspiring designers and front-end developers?

A few guesses:

1. There are some really bad enterprise products out there, no doubt about it. Design critiques abound out there on the interwebs, so I won’t bother piling on. But you don’t have to search far to find labyrinth workflows, overstuffed feature sets, and antiquated technology stacks making cross-device use hilariously impossible.

2. As agile software development and even newer methodologies continue to pick up traction in software development curriculums in schools, last-generation enterprise software tends to be the bogeyman thrown up front and center. The cautionary tales of Frankenstein software and the soulless, suffocating old-world waterfall methodologies wouldn’t get me jazzed about that area of development either.

3. Consumer apps and social platforms tend to get the most attention in the design and UX blogspace.

So, no surprise recruits may be conditioned to look at the enterprise pitch with a wary eye.

Here’s the thing, though: I’m pushing back on this stereotype. As a product manager, I find fulfillment in delighting our users. And boy, is there a lot of delight to be got with well-designed enterprise solutions.

What’s cool: the source of said delight comes in a very different form than in your typical consumer app. “Engagement”, “time spent”, and other such consumer-focused metrics actually need to move in the opposite direction for enterprise software products. I’ll insert one word into something that Irakli Nadareishvili of API Academy noted in one of his presentations last year: “ [Enterprise] Products are merely tools that you rent so you can get some jobs done. Products do not have value in and of themselves”.

In enterprise, a user spending too much time in your product is NOT good: it’s generally a sign of a serious workflow or design issue. Clients pay to use your product to make their overall job workflow more efficient: automating repeated tasks, masking the complexity of involved processes, connecting disparate systems, etc. In that job context, there’s nothing more delightful for the user than eliminating the mundane from your everyday, quickly getting in and out of your tool and freeing your time to conduct your workday on a higher plane of thought.

That focus on adding value to users is where I think designers and front-end developers can find a wealth of satisfaction and creative freedom. Enterprise software is not what it used to be; today it’s all about building user-centered products that are easy to use and that help make people’s lives better. We as product managers can play an important role in articulating this vision to our prospective developers. To be able to communicate our product’s story and wow users, we need to do the same to those who will build it.

Originally published at luc.id on March 16, 2016.