Enterprise software is generally a bastion of unrelenting and uninteresting boredom. Worse, the software machinery of governments and corporations is hard to use, difficult to deploy, and expensive to maintain, making IT failure a natural and expected outcome.
Fortunately, this situation is improving, with the consumer cloud emerging as inspiration for the next generation of enterprise software. Enterprise vendors hoping to emulate the success of companies like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter have started to adopt the approaches and philosophy of cloud services, creating fresh thinking and more rapid innovation than we've seen in years.
Cloud, social, and mobile are the new mantra for industry heavyweights like salesforce.com, Oracle, and SAP. Of these three, Salesforce has preached cloud religion the loudest. However, other pure cloud enterprise vendors such as NetSuite, Workday, Plex, and start-up, Kenandy; are also genuine trailblazers.
Due to market pressure, Oracle and SAP have oriented their core strategies to include cloud, mobile, and social. Since these companies serve a highly diverse user base that includes big companies and small, in myriad industries, their journey to cloud, social, and mobile has been slower and more painful than the smaller vendors. Nonetheless, Oracle invested heavily in its next generation of applications, called Fusion, to create a single code base that runs both on-premise and in the cloud.
Likewise, SAP's $5.8 billion acquisition of Sybase represents a massive commitment to mobile computing, although its cloud strategy seems unfocused and diffuse, especially when compared to marketing efforts around HANA, the company's in-memory analytic appliance.
With intense competition shifting to cloud, social, and mobile we can expect the vendors to ramp up street fighting around these topics. For a prime example, look no further than the Salesforce / Oracle publicity stunt last week.
Enterprise software has entered a new era of fun, FUD, excitement, and massive competitive rivalry, creating sparks of passion will drive great innovation for vendors that move quickly and decisively.
Connecting the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu...
In an extraordinary event, the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu recently conducted a public Google Plus "hangout." For those who don't know, Google Plus hangouts let multiple participants create a video chat that's similar to Skype but more public.
Aside from demonstrating the capability to communicate without the filters of traditional media or governments, the event shows the pervasive influence and reach of consumer social networks. Consumer social software has created a massive, worldwide cultural trend toward unmediated public broadcasting and dialog.
Enterprise vendors and IT departments alike (CIOs I'm looking at you) must remain vigilantly aware of the need to change as the world around us evolves. The growing tide of social sharing and collaboration, which includes cloud and mobile, is an unstoppable force. Those unable to adapt harmoniously with these external cultural changes will not survive; it is truly that simple.
Given all this, I propose the following enterprise software credo:
Build useful, intuitive functionality that organizations can deploy easily and users can consume without hassle. Also make it fun.
Here's a video of the Dalai Lama's chat with Desmond Tutu on Google Plus: