There’s something about Enterprise Software and not necessarily in a good way.
Once software is tagged as being “Enterprise”, expectations, level of stakeholders tolerance and the general sense of acceptable sacrifice become different from other software; no matter how “Enterprise-y” the software really is. The mindset-shift is most evident within implementations, deployments, and the end user experience. Being harder to build, buy, sell and/or utilize, it is fair to say that Enterprise Software is expected to deliver significant ROI for all stakeholders and achieve important operational and strategic goals. Successful Enterprise Software, or to be more precise successful implementations of an Enterprise Software, tend to meet and exceed such targets. Having said that, this is usually accompanied with a certain number of compromises within the areas mentioned above.
Typical attitudes you see in Enterprise Software include, but are not limited to:
• It is OK to lag in technology.
You would not see the latest “cool” technologies in the enterprise until those are replaced by “cooler” stuff. The main reason (excuse?) is that the enterprise cannot adopt new technologies due to potential risk in doing so. Although the reasoning may be understandable, it is often abused; as well proven technologies are dismissed simply because they are not “old enough”. We see this in the “You guys can do that!” reaction, when we demo features of our products to enterprise customers that as far as we are concerned, are not the most recent ones, or already surpassed by other newer features within our product itself, utilizing newer proven technologies.
• It is OK to be Ugly.
It could be a matter of opinion and taste, but I believe the User Interface (“UI”) of some of the best known Enterprise Software platforms (such as ERPs) are not user-friendly, and simply put…. Ugly. In my career, I have had the opportunity to witness many end users’ first encounter with such UIs on a number of occasions. The typical reaction is confusion and an “I just don’t understand” look. Granted, after adequate amount of training, users ultimately accept and live with those UIs. User Interfaces and User Experience technologies are one of the areas that are consistently improving due to all of the new innovations within the market. UI, however, has become another victim of the technology lag, as discussed above. The perception is that Enterprise Software drives complex processes and logic and, therefore, the UI will, unavoidably, be complex. This does not have to be the case, however. A new wave of Enterprise Software can clearly demonstrate that the user experience does not have to suffer from business complexity. In fact… the UI could greatly assist in simplifying the user interaction within these processes – while also making the adoption of them and change management actually easier. This is notably important, as most CIOs / CPOs agree that Enterprise Software adoption is slow, painful, and a potential barrier to improvement.
• This is the way it is done around here.
Flexibility to meet business requirements within Enterprise Software can vary significantly within the “established” players. But each enterprise still endures plenty of those moments, primarily during implementation stages or integration projects, where the business has to compromise on fully justified requirements, due to the rigid nature of their Enterprise Software. How many times have you had to hunt globally for an unused field in order to cover a new need? What about introducing a workaround in order to map a business process, due to the limitations of what’s available? This is usually accepted by businesses due to the sheer amount of effort and cost required to tailor those software data-models to meet the requirements, old or new, as well as potential future impact on support and upgrades. We have always believed Enterprise Software should be prepared and embrace the varied business needs. This can only be achieved by adopting a rich, evolving data-model, combined with first class support for business process adoption throughout the enterprise software architecture.
Notwithstanding all the trashing on Enterprise Software, and the compromises organizations have made, it is certainly fair to say that these attitudes are not completely unfounded. In a future blog, we will cover some of what the origins, or defined by some as “justifications”, of these shortcomings. Further, I will also address how these justifications could, and are, dealt with within a new generation of Enterprise Software companies like… HICX :).