Enterprise Software Makeover: 4 Things To Borrow From Consumer Apps

Guest author Jyoti Bansal is the founder of AppDynamics.
 
Long undervalued, Enterprise software businesses are now enjoying their day in the sun. On Wall Street, enterprise is the new sexy – but how did they manage to wrestle the spotlight from the consumers apps everyone was talking about not so long ago?
 
A key reason is that savvy enterprise software companies are taking what’s great about consumer software and using it to solve big problems that big companies will pay big money to eliminate.
 
The hyper-competitive consumer market forced technology companies to create usable and intuitive products that don’t require weeks of training and costly consultants to operate. The best enterprise companies are realizing they have to measure up to that new bar to succeed. 
 
But how do notoriously hidebound enterprise software companies do that? These four strategies can help enterprise software companies leverage what consumer software firms have learned the hard way:

1. Hire A Good UI Architect – Now 

This might sound obvious, but hiring a top-notch user interface architect should be almost the first thing you do once you hatch a plan for a new enterprise product. Consumer software is built from the top down, which means you’re thinking of how the end user will interact with the software before you even write a line of code. That’s how it should be with enterprise software, too. Get a UI architect to help you decide on the architecture and roadmap of your product so that you don’t run into usability obstacles down the road. And keep the UI team involved every step of the way to help keep feature creep from cluttering up your product.

2. Hand Out A Free Download 

People who buy software for enterprises are jaded. They’ve heard a million product pitches, and they’re justifiably skeptical that your product will deliver what you say it will – they’ve been burned before. The best way to convince people that your product can do what you say it does is to *show* them, and to let them find out for themselves. Make a free version of your software available for download from your website. It may cost a little bit in development and support, but it’s worth it for the credibility it delivers.

3. Offer A SaaS Option 

Software-as-a-Service has caught on in the enterprise because it makes it easier and cheaper for people to get started using your product. If you don’t offer a SaaS version, you’re losing business. Period.

4. Get Out Of The Way 

Consultants and professional services reek of old-school software, and they make your customers feel like you’re taking advantage of them. If your product is easy to use (which it should be if you followed Step 1 above), then you shouldn’t need to send consultants out to help your customers set up your software. Let people try out your software for themselves without bugging them – if they like what they see, they’ll come ask you for more.
 
Not every company can be Apple or Google – but when it comes to enterprise software, it pays to follow their lead. Legacy enterprise software companies that insist on opaque pricing, hard-to-acquire-and-use software and complicated sales cycles are looking a lot like dinosaurs these days. And they’re not even aware that an asteroid is about to hit them.