Deighton, Senior VP of Marketing, QlikTech
There is a widening gap today between what software
users experience in their work environment and what is available
on the Web. As the line between work and home life blurs, people
expect the applications they use at work to be as clear, simple
and user-driven as the applications they use to run their
Companies today are much smarter about purchasing software.
They’re insisting on solutions that have a faster
time-to-market, higher ROI and better end-user adoptability.
Enterprise vendors must embrace the philosophy of simplicity in
business software or risk being sidelined by innovative,
emerging vendors in the near future.
Why Enterprise Software Is So Complex
Traditionally, business software had been purchased by senior
executives focusing on automating business processes and solving
performance issues without a priority of making the solution
user-friendly or ‘fun’ for their end-users.
Take an enterprise vendor like SAP, Oracle or Microsoft, their
job was to sell to a top IT manager. The pitch? “Our product
will solve your business problem by giving you control over your
business processes.” Reading between the lines, the sales
message was also, “It will be easier to keep your users in a box
and control them as well.”
Nowhere in the list of selection criteria was ‘easy to use,’
‘makes it easier for users to do their everyday work,’ or ‘an
enjoyable experience for users.’ Enterprise software was
conventionally understood to be complex, so these requirements
couldn’t factor into the decision-making process.
The top IT manager making the buying decision wasn’t terribly
concerned with implementation times, either. Again, conventional
wisdom accepted that deployments and time to value was measured
in years. Integration was a big concern so it was critical that
the vendor would have a large team that would deliver whatever
integration or customization services that would be needed. This
gave rise to the multi-billion dollar market for implementation
So enterprise buyers were often forced to choose between a
solution that was extremely expensive and took a long time to
implement, or a product that was inexpensive and could be
implemented quickly. The scary truth is that buyers most always
chose the more expensive option.
Software companies figured out this purchase process dynamic
very quickly. Vendors realized they could raise their prices and
actually increase demand because buyers associated a high price
tag with high-value solutions.
A Divergence between Users and Megavendors
But the enterprise software world has changed dramatically.
There has been a great divergence between the offerings of
traditional vendors and the needs of today’s business software
The ‘consumerization’ of enterprise software is rapidly
underway. In today’s Web 2.0 and Internet-driven world,
consumers download applications and use them on their own. Their
expectations are that the software they use at work will be
equally powerful, simple and engaging.
It is easy to see evidence of this divergence by looking at the
market for email. Microsoft Outlook is typically purchased by
the organization and given to the user. It is very complex and
difficult to use. Compare that experience to using any of the
personal email products – Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, or
others. These applications enable access to email from any
computer on the planet via a simple interface. They have fewer
features but are far easier to use than Outlook.
Today’s software users are driving the success of enterprise
software deployments – because they determine if and how a
product will be used – not IT, and not necessarily senior
executives. The experience is very different for users than it
used to be.
In QlikTech’s field, business intelligence, the traditional
tools for analyzing a company’s performance were business
intelligence or corporate dashboard systems. Most were created
during the era of ‘Big ERP’ – and were designed to follow those
same traditional buying process. Likewise, these products were
very difficult to use, took a long time to implement and
expensive. Again, they served as a form of corporate control.
But there’s been a sea change of solutions that make it possible
for users to quickly access specific information on their own.
It’s the same Web 2.0 dynamic which allows people to communicate
with colleagues in any number of ways without needing Outlook.
Vendors of the ‘Simple’ Revolution
The revolution in user demands for enterprise software
simplicity is driving a stake in the ground between innovative
emerging vendors and the traditional ‘stack’ vendors. Platform
megavendors understand the trend towards simplicity and pay lip
service to supporting user demands, but the reality is that they
simply can’t. Despite their attempts to offer new, simpler
products, the fact is that their business models are predicated
on keeping software complex.
It is the ‘Innovator’s Dilemma:’ If they make new products that
are simple to implement and easy to use, they will lose their
massive streams of services revenue. Their sales models are
based on selling big deals. A switch to simplicity will crater
It isn’t just happening in major ERP application markets. Even
in our market – business intelligence – best-of-breed leaders
such as Cognos, Hyperion, Business Objects and Proclarity have
all been acquired in the last few years by megavendors. The
acquisitions serve the megavendors need for long implementation
times and the major revenue stream which accompanies it. The
objective of these mergers is to protect their entrenched
businesses, not to improve ROI for customers or improve the user
Hallmarks of ‘Simple’ Software
As the chorus of enterprise demands for more simple solutions
becomes louder, there are several characteristics which software
vendors need to emulate in order to best serve customers today.
- A Robust Offering
‘Simple’ is not synonymous with ‘lite.’ The functionality,
interoperability and robustness of any Web 2.0 application must
be similar to that of traditional offerings. The key is to
leverage Internet-powered technology and new business model
efficiencies to deliver a user-friendly, enjoyable software
- A Focus on the User
For decades, enterprise software vendors have been focusing
their sales efforts on the wrong buyer: the top IT executive.
This buyer’s main concern is whether it is possible to install
an application on 30,000 laptops in a timely and secure manner.
Another big consideration on whether to upgrade to a new version
of a product is how much of the release is ‘new.’
Office 2007 was aimed at this buyer. Microsoft created the suite
with an ‘over the shoulder’ criteria in mind: If a buyer looked
at a user’s screen over his or her shoulder, it would look
significantly different from prior versions of Office. As anyone
who uses Office 2007 can attest, this is certainly true. But the
functionality and usability of the suite changed to the point
that many longtime Office users cannot use the new icon-driven
menus. By ignoring the needs of the user and focusing solely on
the ‘big deal’ sales process, Microsoft hampered the adoption of
- A Revamped Value Chain
The innovative vendors who are delivering simple software
applications are building their entire business behind this
concept. It’s not just about making the product less complicated
for the user, it is also about making the business of the
software business less complicated. If you focus only on the
software, then you’re only solving part of the problem. It is
critical to pick partner vendors and service providers who also
believe in delivering simple solutions.
- Fast Sales & Implementation Process
innovative vendors operating in this new ‘simple’ software
space, a fast sales and implementation cycle is critical. The
products are designed to be easy for users to use but they also
must be quick to deliver value to the business. At QlikTech, we
operate on an average-32-day sales cycle and take 1 – 2 weeks to
implement the product. This speed enables us to
return as soon as two weeks later to offer follow-on products
- A Relentless Pursuit of Simplicity
After the business is aligned, it is all about the software.
‘Simple’ vendors must have a relentless focus on making the
products more usable and faster to deploy. In QlikTech’s
history, there have been temptations to lose our ‘simple’ focus,
perhaps by adding a feature that is difficult to implement or
partnering with a traditional vendor. But we chose the ‘simple’
path at each fork in the road and have realized tremendous
success for our vendor partners along the way. By building our
whole company around this philosophy, the simple approach
becomes self supporting.
Simplify or Die
For traditional enterprise vendors, the ‘simple’ revolution in
business software isn’t like asking kids to eat their broccoli.
It isn’t something they should do to improve their health; it is
something they must do to stay alive.
In five years, we will not see the traditional vendors that
buried their heads in the sand and didn’t accept this new
reality. They may still be hanging on but their days will be
Today’s college grads are joining the workforce without knowing
a world without high-speed Internet access. They’ve never used
an application that couldn’t be used via a Web browser. They’ve
never bought a physical music CD. They can access their friends
within seconds via Facebook, IM, texting, email, telephone or
any number of other vehicles.
With each heartbeat, user expectations get higher and higher.
Traditional software executives can sit around pining for the
old days of the business or they can accept reality and start
making ‘simple’ changes which will ensure their company’s
survival in the future.
Anthony Deighton is Senior VP of Marketing for QlikTech. Most
recently, he was the General Manager of Siebel System’s Employee Relationship
Management (ERM) business unit. Prior to joining Siebel, Anthony worked as a
management consultant at A.T. Kearney in Chicago. For article feedback, contact
Anthony at email@example.com