Recently, Neuralytix took on the statement “your issues are my issues” that one New York City Council candidate expressed during her campaign. We asked how that question applies to the technology industry (and in particular the enterprise application market).
Neuralytix believes that , the major issue facing enterprise technology is an identity problem. Enterprise technologies are not sexy and it certainly isn’t personal. For most, including the executive suite, enterprise technologies are part of a process. It is viewed as a necessary evil. The same group of people probably have concerns about the reliability of technology given that when something doesn’t work (usually as a result of human error, or poor training or documentation), their usual response is “the computer system is very slow” or “the computer system is down”. None of these sentiments are positive ones.
When enterprise applications change or are updated, many users are frustrated by new interfaces, or operational and functional changes that disturb their already learned modus operandus. What these same people don’t recognize is that when they acquire a new smartphone, or the smartphone gets a major update to its underlying operating system, they go through the same frustration. Yet, these same frustration seem to be quickly dismissed or displaced as a result of the “cool” new features that they attain from the upgrade.
Why is this the case? Why is enterprise technology so misunderstood? Why can’t enterprise users dismiss or displace their frustrations they experience with personal technologies when it relates to enterprise technologies?
Like most things, it’s psychological. Enterprise technologies are just that, enterprise technologies. They are not personal. While individuals seek new features with personal technologies, new features in enterprise technologies are often a result of compromise. We can make personal technologies adapt to our personal workflows or daily methodologies. Enterprise technologies on the other hand is not flexible.
So how can enterprise technologies harness the same enthusiasm that a normally technology adverse executive experiences when he/she get their hands on an iPad towards enterprise technology? The answer is personalization.
Until recently, specifically the “app markets” created by Apple, Google, and to a lesser extent, Microsoft and Blackberry, enterprise technologies (specifically enterprise applications) were completely rigid, and devoid of the ability to adapt to individual workflows. Smartphone and web based apps that are built of enterprise platforms have enabled individuals to perform the same enterprise tasks, but in an environment and a way that works for the individual.
Putting it slightly differently, the “app” has enabled creativity and individuality in the enterprise application space. An interesting corresponding evolution has been the Big Data market. In both situations, the emergence of flexible, personalize-able end-user interfaces have allowed users to be creative.
The creativity has spawn innovation. It has spawned an interest by the end-user to adopt applications that suit them to perform the work necessary to achieve the objective in their role, as well as creating an opportunity for those same line knowledge workers to contribute in adjacent functions that can ultimately lead to some localized (or even corporate wide) process reengineering.
Ultimately, what this all means is that the end-user feels more connected to the evolution of the enterprise.
These are all good things.
So who are the winners and losers? The winners are those enterprises that have invested in various enterprise platforms, not applications. These platforms, of which Google Mail (or Gmail) is a prime example, allows users to leverage different clients to achieve the same result. These users have the option to leverage an offline client (e.g. Microsoft Outlook, or Thunderbird), an online client (such as Google’s Gmail, Yahoo! Mail or Microsoft’s Outlook.com), and/or one or more iOS or Android clients.
Along with these choices are the multitudes of add-ons and plugins available. These not enable users to operate in a comfortable and familiar environment, but also provides them with options to optimize their own unique needs and work styles.
Other successful platforms include the now ubiquitous Salesforce.com.
What is different about these platforms? The majority of them sit in the public cloud. That is not to say that private clouds cannot take advantage of this. The banking system is a prime example of how banks are leverage highly secure public clouds to provide their customers with the ability to execute banking transactions at the traditional teller, the automated teller machine (ATM), the
web, native applications (such as apps on Windows 8) and on smartphones and tablets.
This number of options to do the same backend functions with different interfaces that suit an individual’s preferred approach to workflow is unprecedented.
So, coming around to the question of the identity problem. Enterprise applications need to think more like consumer applications. Enterprise application providers need to create an ecosystem that promote and encourage a developer community to create applications that will suit different constituents. Many of these approaches will be niche. But then again, why do the Apple AppStore and Google’s Play Store have over 1,000,000 apps each? The answer is that hopefully, there will be something there for everyone.
The industry needs to make the issue of how enterprise technologies are consumed top priority. We need to make end-users identify with enterprise applications just as they do with consumer applications. Only then will creatively and innovation accelerate, and even the most junior of employees in an enterprise be able to improve productivity, and contribute to the tactical and strategic needs of the enterprise.
So “your” issues – i.e.the users’ issue (usability) is “my” – i.e. enterprise application developers, software-as-a-service (SaaS), and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) – issue.