Enterprise 2.0: The bottoms-up sales model

Startup leaders explain how to successfully achieve a "bottoms-up sales model" as employees go rogue on installing enterprise apps.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

SAN FRANCISCO -- BYOD is has already fostered a spin-off trend: BYOA, or "bring your own apps." Naturally, this has developed into another headache for CIOs and IT departments.

Nevertheless, this is a trend that is going to become a de-facto practice, so it is arguable that it would be better just to accept the concept head on and work with it rather than around it.

Enter the "bottoms-up sales model," a new approach to enterprise apps that was discussed in detail during a panel discussion at MobileBeat 2012 on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the event description, the CIO could really be referred to as the CRO (or "chief reaction officer) because many times this C-level executive is caught off-guard now as employees jump to their own cloud-based enterprise apps such as Dropbox or Box for handling sensitive company content and data.

The bottoms-up model reflects this and tries to answer the problem by resolving that the trend isn't a problem at all.

The simplest explanation of this model is that it means employees are using enterprise (or consumer) apps they've found on their own even if the company hasn't approved it. Typically this happens because the employees find apps that work and look better to get their jobs done, shunning outdated enterprise software that the company has already paid for and set up.

Evernote's vice president of group accounts, John McGeachie, pointed towards the freemium model as a driver of this model, which he asserted is core to Evernote's business. He explained it's about letting users experience Evernote at its fullest and become a habit without requiring a commitment. 

"We're not forcing a decision, so as a result we have lots of people using it who tell their friends about it," McGeachie said. From there, he continued, the progression is that people end up want it to use it for every facet in their lives -- including for work.

"I think it's really important that we built for consumer and not business first," McGeachie asserted about Evernote. "We're building something targeted towards the user and not the buyer."

TripIt also started with a freemium model. But within a few years of launching, Nancy Ramamurthi, vice president of product management and marketing at TripIt, recalled that it became evident how the travel platform was really taking off with business travelers. She noted that there was initial customer development, but a lot of it was product vision to solve common travel planning problems. 

With the premium service, TripIt Pro, that's where more focused customer development happened, which eventually led to developing for small and medium businesses. That initiative launched approximately 18 months ago as a service for SMBs that don't have their own internal travel management program. Since then, that line of TripIt Pro has roughly 1,300 paying customers.

"Launching a successful small business platform is not trivial," Ramamurthi acknowledged, adding that perhaps TripIt has been lucky so far because there isn't a direct competitor in this market yet.

App stores have also been great equalizers for people discovering apps, McGeachie said. But when finding apps are so simple, many users might not realize what they're getting involved in, which can be a bit of a security problem if data isn't handled properly.

"A lot of our users don't realize that when they create an Evernote account on an iPhone or Android phone, they have an account in the cloud," McGeachie pointed out. He added that 75 percent of new Evernote user registrations come through mobile.

If there was one thing regarding enterprise apps about which all of the panelists agreed, it would be the importance of the user experience. 

Ramamurthi stressed that a productivity app, in particular, must be useful, but she tacked on that delighting the user (either through the ease of use and/or the design) is also "super important." If an app can't wow a user within 30 seconds, she argued that lack of success will just drive customers to the "billions of other apps" out there. 

"The user experience is so critical becuase app stores have created a meritocracy of software," McGeachie added.

Panel moderator Raj Singh, founder and CEO of mobile productivity startup Tempo AI, might have put it most succinctly, remarking that "bottoms-up sales is just an alias for consumer."

Editorial standards