Several years ago, famous blogger, Robert Scoble, made outlandish statements about enterprise software that started a heated discussion and culminated in author, Nick Carr, declaring the debate a "FIRESTORM!"
Also read: "Enterprise software won't get you laid" Sexy enterprise software, part two: SAP and Workday Robert Scoble doesn't understand enterprise software Five principles of sexy enterprise software
As before, Robert goes berserk on this topic, comparing a deep enterprise application (Workday) to a lightweight consumer tool (Expensify). After expressing shock and outrage that the little Expensify app better meets his expense reporting needs than industrial strength Workday, Robert exclaims:
This is how sucky enterprise software gets chosen. The people who choose it are choosing the software that makes THEIR lives easier, NOT the lives of everyone else in the enterprise.
Four years have passed since those fateful days of FIRESTORM, but apparently, little has changed. Despite the increasing convergence of IT and consumer technology, even smart folks like Robert Scoble still misunderstand enterprise software.
If you are brave enough to handle it, here's a video in which Robert conflates enterprise and consumer software:
Enterprise vendors like Workday, SAP, Oracle, and NetSuite build solutions that serve a broad range of business processes and functional areas inside large organizations. To be useful in an enterprise environment, the software must integrate deeply (and hopefully seamlessly, but that's another issue) with many existing systems. Enterprise technology must also scale, offer robust security, high reliability, and so on. In contrast, consumer tools typically perform little more than a single function based on a very small set of features.
Enterprise solutions and consumer tools are not the same. Robert's discussion of Workday and Expensify, well intentioned though it may be, compares a broad enterprise system with a small utility program. When Scoble extrapolates assumptions about enterprise software based on a tiny subset of features in Workday, he commits a logical fallacy and falls prey to an attractive, but wrong, "sin of convenience."
In fairness, however, Robert raises an excellent point. Ideally, the user experience of enterprise software should be best in class on par with consumer apps. Because enterprise technology must retain deep, backend integration along with business process richness, accomplishing this goal is hard. Few vendors are up to the challenge, which is one reason enterprise software is so often difficult to use.
Scoble's complaints are also ironic because Workday offers the best overall user experience among the major enterprise vendors; the company's iPad app is also excellent.
That said, we all know that entering expenses is a pain in the ass and little Expensify does it really well - Workday should indeed look and learn.
Advice to all enterprise software vendors: Redouble efforts to offer best-in-class user experience while retaining the enterprise substance that makes you indispensable to virtually every major organization on the planet.