enterprise software has 5 years to live.

In five years, enterprise software will

-Be as easy to use as consumer software

– engage the workforce

– be flexible enough to meet emerging needs

– let IT teams focus on the needs of the business instead of the needs of the software

– be almost unrecognizable by today’s standards.

Microsoft, EMC, Open Text, a gagillion other enterprise software companies are out there telling companies how they’ll solve all your nastiest business problems, making you efficient, secure and compliant.

Here’s something that few of these companies are even trying to offer you (though there’s a group at open text that I know of that is moving quickly in the right direction)

1. Workforce engagement. Most enterprise software is so horrible to use that people only use it because they are forced to. This is not entirely the fault of these enterprise companies, but they aren’t solving the problem either – or at least not effectively.

2. Agility. The vast majority of enterprise software is extensively and gruellingly integrated and customized so that any change to it in response to changes in the business or new technologies or what have you, is a whole project that needs to be planned and budgeted.

3. Simplicity. Enterprise software requires sometimes extensive training to install maintain and use. Few if any users understand the full capabilities.

The companies that are beginning to make a difference (37 signals, some groups w/in open text, rumors of others) share some things in common:

1. They design for the people who use the software. The number one most mind boggling thing that I see in enterprise software are requirements docs that make no reference to who’s using them and what they want to accomplish. I see lots of details about file management and security and such, but in the end its darn difficult to ascertain what it is the product is meant to do.

2. They solve specific problems for specific people – they aren’t infinitely configurable “platforms”. They  don’t try to be everything to everyone. This is scary for them. If you’ve always tried to be everything to everyone, then narrowing that down feels like a very big risk. But its the only way to actually serve needs of real people. This means that much enterprise software is actually more platform than product. Doesn’t do much out of the box until you’ve invested 6 months or more “configuring” it.

One of the most exciting things about Enterprise 2.0 is that its creating an entirely new generation of enterprise software demand – one that comes with higher expectations for usability and integration with existing systems.

Me likey.



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