Why enterprise software isn’t sexy

Bill Gates seems to bemoan the fact that enterprise software isn’t covered by blogs and journalists. Instead, he points out, that we like talking about consumer software.

It’s a good point, especially since business software like that from Oracle, SAP, Microsoft etc makes a TON of money.

So, why is it so?

Well, how many people in the world actually buy business software? For instance, back when I worked at NEC, a company that had more than 100,000 employees back then (more employees than work at Microsoft, actually) we used SAP. But I didn’t have any say in that matter. Some CIO somewhere else made that decision and forced us all to use SAP. That doesn’t exactly make us warm and fuzzy about the computer sitting in front of us on the desk.

But that doesn’t really explain it totally.

Instead, let’s look at the business of journalism or even of blogging. We’re paid to deliver page views. Advertisers call it “CPM” (cost per thousand viewers). Now, what’s going to get more of you interested? Consumer software that you actually have a role in adopting or purchasing or enterprise software where some CIO somewhere else in your organization decides on? I know that when I talk about enterprise software the numbers of viewers just don’t show up. So, tech bloggers quickly learn that if they talk about enterprise software they aren’t going to get many advertising impressions.

There are a variety of CIO blogs, though, I wonder which one is the best one?

Don’t feel too sad for Gates, though. He’s laughing all the way to the bank. Turns out those CIOs buy a lot of software.

Any of you have any ideas on how to make business software sexy?

I wonder what the Enterprise Irregulars think about this? (They are a group of bloggers who cover business software).

180 thoughts on “Why enterprise software isn’t sexy

  1. The fact the person who makes the purchasing decision means vendors can get away with the cruddiest user interface you can imagine, but that’s not the root cause.

    Enterprise software will never be sexy just as accounting will never be sexy, and for exactly the same reasons.

  2. The fact the person who makes the purchasing decision means vendors can get away with the cruddiest user interface you can imagine, but that’s not the root cause.

    Enterprise software will never be sexy just as accounting will never be sexy, and for exactly the same reasons.

  3. Just because enterprise software is geeky and bloated doesn’t mean that it isn’t trying it’s durndest to be sexy. Let’s review the last few enterprise software waves: 1) client/server computing – an attempt to do in the enterprise what people had been doing for years on home pcs, 2) thin/client computing – a mass enterprise hysteria for all things internet, driven by a mass consumer hysteria for all things internet, 3) Web 2.0/Rich Internet app stuff – a slavish insistence that enterprise software be as usable as, for example typepad or blogger.

  4. Just because enterprise software is geeky and bloated doesn’t mean that it isn’t trying it’s durndest to be sexy. Let’s review the last few enterprise software waves: 1) client/server computing – an attempt to do in the enterprise what people had been doing for years on home pcs, 2) thin/client computing – a mass enterprise hysteria for all things internet, driven by a mass consumer hysteria for all things internet, 3) Web 2.0/Rich Internet app stuff – a slavish insistence that enterprise software be as usable as, for example typepad or blogger.

  5. Enterprise software must be sexy, but that is to address the issue of acceptance by the users. For a CIO to implement an Enterprise application based on looks however means that he has no clue. Functionality, stability and support should drive the sale of a product and sexiness should be way down the list of requirements.

    I have been using SAP in my corporation for many years. We have 120000+ users on it and I must say stability has never been an issue (in my humble opinion that is). However, I’ve always been negative towards the product because it’s complicated and ugly. Seriously, it’s damn ugly. So the usability and user interface really prevented me and many other users to accept the product for what it can do, and rather looked at it as a useful yet ugly old Betty.

    It’s a bit of a catch 22 though, because sexy interfaces are usually resource intensive, just look at Vista and Office 2007. Beautiful interfaces (yeah I know what you are thinking MAC fans), but who wants to buy those powerful machines for their corporation, SMB or even one-man-show businesses to run a single simple application, sometimes requiring no more than a few MB of RAM?

    I’m in two minds about this one…..

    Sneaky Puffadder

  6. Enterprise software must be sexy, but that is to address the issue of acceptance by the users. For a CIO to implement an Enterprise application based on looks however means that he has no clue. Functionality, stability and support should drive the sale of a product and sexiness should be way down the list of requirements.

    I have been using SAP in my corporation for many years. We have 120000+ users on it and I must say stability has never been an issue (in my humble opinion that is). However, I’ve always been negative towards the product because it’s complicated and ugly. Seriously, it’s damn ugly. So the usability and user interface really prevented me and many other users to accept the product for what it can do, and rather looked at it as a useful yet ugly old Betty.

    It’s a bit of a catch 22 though, because sexy interfaces are usually resource intensive, just look at Vista and Office 2007. Beautiful interfaces (yeah I know what you are thinking MAC fans), but who wants to buy those powerful machines for their corporation, SMB or even one-man-show businesses to run a single simple application, sometimes requiring no more than a few MB of RAM?

    I’m in two minds about this one…..

    Sneaky Puffadder

  7. Consumer software becomes enterprise software. Because what we call consumer software is typically younger, easier to use, and has a smaller featureset it is more interesting to discuss and there’s more opportunity to make an impact on it.

    Enterprise software seems to exist for itself. Features are mostly about keeping existing customers locked in and the realization of cool new features undergoes a much, much longer development time.

  8. Consumer software becomes enterprise software. Because what we call consumer software is typically younger, easier to use, and has a smaller featureset it is more interesting to discuss and there’s more opportunity to make an impact on it.

    Enterprise software seems to exist for itself. Features are mostly about keeping existing customers locked in and the realization of cool new features undergoes a much, much longer development time.

  9. Enterprise Software gets “sexy” when end users, not only CIOs and IT, are given the ability to take matters into their own hands and decide what product to use themselves. The on-demand model has made this easy. This coupled with a high degree of self-service customization (and reliability) breeds customer satisfaction and hence broader adoption. Salesforce, NetSuite and Taleo have proven this in the SMB markets.

    New do-it-yourself PaaS (platform as a service) offerings are taking this a step further by providing business users with the tools to design and deploy entirely new business apps themselves without necessarily writing code. These kinds of platforms are poised for adoption at the grassroots level. In the newish world of on-demand enterprise software end users are demanding to be empowered with self-service customization:

    http://blog.rollbase.com/2007/10/self-service-customization.html

    What is “sexy” is in the eye of the beholder — if your enterprise software cannot dynamically adapt to fit the beholder’s whim, someone else’s will. It is becoming easier and easier to pack up and switch vendors if you are not happy with the product. Still not happy? Roll your own.

    Matt Robinson
    http://www.rollbase.com
    blog.rollbase.com

  10. Enterprise Software gets “sexy” when end users, not only CIOs and IT, are given the ability to take matters into their own hands and decide what product to use themselves. The on-demand model has made this easy. This coupled with a high degree of self-service customization (and reliability) breeds customer satisfaction and hence broader adoption. Salesforce, NetSuite and Taleo have proven this in the SMB markets.

    New do-it-yourself PaaS (platform as a service) offerings are taking this a step further by providing business users with the tools to design and deploy entirely new business apps themselves without necessarily writing code. These kinds of platforms are poised for adoption at the grassroots level. In the newish world of on-demand enterprise software end users are demanding to be empowered with self-service customization:

    http://blog.rollbase.com/2007/10/self-service-customization.html

    What is “sexy” is in the eye of the beholder — if your enterprise software cannot dynamically adapt to fit the beholder’s whim, someone else’s will. It is becoming easier and easier to pack up and switch vendors if you are not happy with the product. Still not happy? Roll your own.

    Matt Robinson
    http://www.rollbase.com
    blog.rollbase.com

  11. It depends on the software and the company that it comes from.

    The Lotus Notes/Domino community is pretty actively blogged, and discussed out there. Google IBM Lotus blog sometime.

  12. It depends on the software and the company that it comes from.

    The Lotus Notes/Domino community is pretty actively blogged, and discussed out there. Google IBM Lotus blog sometime.

  13. I believe that it’s time for a small software company to start creating small-business enterprise apps–and make them look and act well at a reasonable price–it can be done. The big boys are not cut out for this–they are too entrenched in their old way of viewing things and too hung up on the technology to realize that what really matters is how it feels to the end-user. (they are affecting millions of lives here–day-in and day-out) Reliability and performance are part of that, but so far every enterprise system out there looks and feels really unprofessional, awkward and is a pain to use. Hard to believe when the systems sell for millions.

  14. I believe that it’s time for a small software company to start creating small-business enterprise apps–and make them look and act well at a reasonable price–it can be done. The big boys are not cut out for this–they are too entrenched in their old way of viewing things and too hung up on the technology to realize that what really matters is how it feels to the end-user. (they are affecting millions of lives here–day-in and day-out) Reliability and performance are part of that, but so far every enterprise system out there looks and feels really unprofessional, awkward and is a pain to use. Hard to believe when the systems sell for millions.

  15. Pingback: Geek And Poke

Comments are closed.