Is Corporate IT Strategy Driving the Creation of ‘Bad’ Enterprise Software?
It’s a question I’ve recently found myself asking, why is there such a difference between the experience of large enterprise software versus the software for SMEs and consumers?
As a creator of Enterprise Software, which is normally purchased and used by procurement and finance and a user of a number of the tools we use internally on the sales & marketing side – I have a pretty good view of both and the differences.
Breadth vs Depth?
Having this unique perspective of seeing the customer and supplier perspective of software as well as big business and small, in an intimate way, I started to question why as enterprise software creators we are we going so broad in our feature set, trying to solve every problem, rather than being more specific and solving a few problems really well. Which is what a number of SME and sales & marketing tools are doing very well now.
Let me explain what I’ve noticed.
The different software offerings on the sales & marketing side tend to be very open and they all connect with each other. If they don’t, it’s very easy to connect them. None of these providers are telling us you need to do everything in our platform because they are “seamlessly integrated”. In fact, all the tools are seamlessly integrated but they are all from different providers – one tool for inside sales, another for CRM, another for inbound marketing, etc. and we didn’t have to hire a Big 4 Consultancy and pay a million to connect them.
The reason we chose different tools is because we picked the one’s which solved our problem in that particular area. What you end up with is really good focused tools with a lot of attention to detail. All of which makes things very easy for the end user.
The source of ‘badness’?
The challenge when you are selling to a large enterprise is that you feel a pressure to go very broad. For example, one common theme is often IT strategy, talking about “system consolidation”. Or do we take a “best of breed” or “single provider” approach – you will hear all kinds of corporate jargon. Now I understand those themes but I believe these topics no longer matter and they are part of an old guard. Software has evolved and many corporations need to evolve as well. To take advantage of the expertise of a variety of systems. Just think of the following points:
- If you buy every module from a single company you still have many different bits of software, they are just from the same provider. It’s like buying a car, a truck, a van and saying they are all the same because they are Ford. They are still three different vehicles.
- Eventually because you bought software for the wrong reasons – the badge – rather than solving an actual problem – the business will look for other software or go back to doing things out of the system because the problem will still exist. Software is bought to solve a problem not because it’s a good brand. If you needed a truck and ended up buying a car you will eventually will need to buy a trailer to solve your problem. (Even if it is a nice car.)
- You end up with a poor user experience – it may be good in some areas but it will definitely be lacking in others. No one is good at everything.
- It’s a problem if integration is still such a big challenge because everyone else seems to have figured out a way to make it easy. Integrated does not mean from the same provider anymore. If your provider is locking you in it’s probably because the software is so poor you wouldn’t use it otherwise.
- Single sign on is standard practice there is no argument for multiple username and passwords.
- The argument that ‘We have already spent $300M, we need to leverage our investment in “SAP” or “Oracle”. Let me stop you right here, two wrongs will not make a right. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome.
With finance and procurement software it is now fairly typical to have a bunch of “suites” doing many things on a very superficial level. Every provider started off doing one thing very well, but eventually their proposition was diluted because they had to have a “suite” in order to compete and show up on the Gartner magic quadrant.
One good example of this slide into mediocrity is the idea that it makes sense to manage supplier master data in a transactional system for raising purchase orders, or to use a sourcing tool for either of those activities. The only common thread is that they deal with suppliers but that’s about it. Still, it’s easy to miss when the “suite” dream is being sold to you.
Corporate IT strategy needs to be thinking on different terms about their technology architecture. The future is an open ecosystem, its SAAS and it’s all about the details on the user experience. If corporations do that, they will start to see much better Enterprise Software being created because software providers will see it as a viable option and importantly, a financially beneficial one, to go deep into one problem.
What’s your view?