The allure of building enterprise products

By Jesse Rodgers 

There is no doubt that enterprise software is currently in fashion.

That’s because in enterprise software there are big problems, bigger data, and bigger budgets where you don’t need to find millions or even thousands of customers to build a business.

Take Workday, for example, that is estimated to have $500 million in ‘bookings this year’ on just 310 customers.

I see three key things that are currently driving opportunity in this space:

  • Mobile: Bring Your Own Device mentality — better informed (in most cases) employee expectations have put a lot of pressure on IT departments to provide better tools and access for getting work done.
  • User experience expectations: My long-held belief that with the explosion of Facebook, everyone’s user-experience expectations changed rapidly. No longer is it only the young people in the office complaining about how insane it is to fill out a form that doesn’t autosave in PeopleSoft.
  • Sales are less scary: It could be the whole ‘startup is sexy’ talk from the governments of the western world that’s making larger companies seemingly more open to talk to smaller companies with great solutions. Also, more is being shared about how to sell to that market.

With the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) movement, we are seeing a real example of consumer products shifting how IT is controlled in the workplace along with an acceptance that employees are tech savvy. Those who worked in IT for more than five years will remember a time when the average employee just glazed over if you talked about technology. Now it’s more common that employees (especially, but not exclusively, younger ones) are more versed (or believe they are) than the average IT person on many aspects of the tools they use day-to-day. This trend was noted in 2007 and today, tech savvy employees are seen as a necessity.

Enter Facebook lifting everyone’s user experience expectations. People could fill out forms with real-time error checking and chat windows. Tagging became a known thing to do. Also, in 2009 Facebook was extremely popular on the Blackberry. According to Nick O’Neill, “It is somewhat surprising that Blackberry users are the most active mobile Facebook users so far.” Facebook deserves credit for forcing IT departments across the globe to answer to frustrated VPs who couldn’t access their kid’s stuff because they were on an outdated browser, or a firewall limited access, or they couldn’t install the Facebook app on their IT-controlled Blackberry. Facebook’s relevance to the enterprise crowd even comes out in an article talking about the advantages Workday has, which said: ”Workday’s software for filing expenses or approving a hire, on the other hand, is about as easy to use as Facebook.”

Selling to and developing your products for enterprise has certainly become a lot easier with tech-savvy employees having the ability to make decisions on the tools they use. Something that solves an individual’s problem and can be used in a small team enters the enterprise completely under the radar. Dropbox is an example of this scenario; it is a great consumer product that uses the BYOD tide to break into enterprise.

Generally, the sales process does not have to be scary. Take the time to understand how other products are sold into the particular industry you are targeting and iterate on their process. Whatever you do, be sure to talk to your customers, build relationships, and accept that it is very unlikely you will be able to automate the entire process.

What do you think?

Image: Polyvore

Jesse Rodgers is co-founder of TribeHR, an exciting development in the world of human resource management that lets you automate and simplify the boring, nit-picky, and frustrating details of managing your employees so you can spend your time attracting, engaging, and developing your team.

Francis Moran and Associates is an associated team of seasoned practitioners of a number of different marketing disciplines, all of whom share a passion for technology and a proven record of driving revenue growth in markets across the globe. We work with B2B technology companies of all sizes and at every life stage and can engage as individuals or as a full team to provide quick counsel, a complete marketing strategy or the ongoing hands-on input of a virtual chief marketing officer. 

Francis Moran
Francis Moran
Francis Moran is principal of Francis Moran & Associates, a consultancy that provides business-to-business technology ventures with the strategic counsel required to make their innovations successful in a highly competitive marketplace. Francis can be reached at [email protected]

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