Month: March 2008

value proposition – the threshold

Again I find myself in lots of discussions about value propositions. This time in the context of Enterprise software. The same rule holds.

A person will start to use software when using it is easier than not using it.

In the case of Enterprise software, sometimes “easier” can be a little different – like its absolutely required or you won’t get paid. But basically, there are 2 things you can do to tip the balance. The first is to do something so valuable, that people want to use it. The second is to do something so much easier than people can do it now, that people will use it. This kind of means that the less you offer the easier it must be to do it, or conversely, the more you offer, the more people will put up with.

Enterprise software is a little different – the people who use the software are rarely the people who bought it. People use it because they’re told to, or because its the only way to get certain information. So enterprise software companies haven’t bothered to make the tools easy to use, and integrators, like SAP, Accenture, etc., don’t help that situation much.

The good news is that its slowly changing. People who use enterprise software are also consumers, and their expectation is that stuff should work. Good work, software dudes. 15 years ago all software sucked. Now, most consumer software’s pretty usable. Our expectations have been raised, and the enterprise is next.

The rush of ideas

What does Web 2.0 mean to me? Recently, just a rush of ideas –  I’ve gotten back in touch with that time of life when my heart would beat faster, and I’d forget to eat, and I’d ignore everything for an idea, running around, trying to explain it to anyone who’d listen (got lots of blank stares as a kid. my sister at one point declared that I could no longer communicate with normal people).

And the thing is – its not really an online thing. Its an offline thing powered by an online thing. Twitter, TED, BIL, FOWA, Startup Weekend, Bar Camp – these don’t happen on line – they’re shared online. They spread that way. I meet someone (like Brian Williams at Viget Labs) and he points me to someone (like Andrew Hyde) who points me to someone like Micah or Laura Fitton, and life gets more and more interesting.  I have a crush on every person and idea. And suddenly just showing up has power. Everyone’s an amplifier.

I’m missing BIL this week (not to mention FOWA and SWSX, abd TED), and I’m profoundly disappointed. I can’t wait to see what a wiki organized, only organically promoted and organized event can actually produce. I think it will be life-changing for the people who go.

The Distant Voice of the Customer

My current project (full time) has been challenging  – its so different from what I’ve done in the past that its taken me a while to get grounded, identify the key challenges and plan of attack. I’m working with enterprise software.

Now this particular software, digital asset management software, is powerful stuff – to the point of the near magical. It – when properly applied – powers creativity, collaboration and distribution of some of the worlds most interesting and valuable rich media.

But its enterprise software, which, I’m coming to understand, means that it must also be somewhat of a chameleon. It gets customized, enhanced, and integrated in nearly every installation. And the customer list reads like a who’s who of several media-intensive industries.

So – as a new leader for this product, there are several huge challenges that make it very different from the consumer software I’ve lived with.

First – the value proposition. Its a rare consumer company that can spit out its value proposition cleanly at any given time. (Course, think of the ones who actually can – google, intuit, ebay – notice anything?).  For a highly customizable giant of enterprise software, well, they certainly don’t have any less of a challenge there.

Second – the voice of the customer. Enterprise products are not sold to an individual, but to a committee, and not to the end users, but to someone who has various motivations, hopefully one of which is to enable those end users to do something, better.

So – the voice of the customer – which I’ve gotten pretty good at seeking out in the consumer world is now in a different place. And I’m trying to chase it down. I’m starting with customer visits – but frequently you meet with the IT folks responsible for implementing the solution – not with the people who feel the need, or the people who will be using it.

The team is all in agreement about the need to find the voice – and is pursuing several ways of getting there (hey – you heard of this web 2.0 thing? its pretty cool, and fortunately, they have).   I’m not sure how the company will feel about it, but I think that the pursuit of this voice is important, and I hope to document how we get closer to it, and how that intimacy changes things.