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The enterprise strikes back (sufficientlyadvanced.net)
64 points by billclerico on Nov 16, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 26 comments

Design matters more than the feature checklist

Not in any enterprise I've ever serviced.

What enterprise people really need to know:

I already know from existing reporting that 984 orders (18% of our backlog) are already past due. For those 984 orders:

  - How many are for one item and how many are for multiples?
  - Do we own what we owe those customers?
  - If we do own it, is it in the proper warehouse?
  - If it is in the proper warehouse, can we find it?
  - If we can find it, is it undamaged and certified?
  - If it's shippable, do we have enough labor to ship it?
  - If it isn't certified, how soon can QA certify it?
  - If it isn't in the right warehouse, can we move it?
  - If we don't own any, where can we get some?
  - Which vendors have it on the shelf?
  - Which vendors do we have blanket purchase orders with?
  - Which vendors do we have contracts with?
  - Which orders can be split to satisfy a partial?
  - Which orders are for customers already on credit hold?
  - Which customers are threatening not to renew with us?
and (ironically) the most asked question of all: - Which orders must be shipped to hit our quarterly numbers?

Enterprise solutions better answer these questions. If they're pretty, that's a bonus, but well designed tools that don't answer these questions are just lipstick on a pig.

Not in any enterprise I've ever serviced.

Nor I. However, mobile is indeed changing they way IT thinks. I've recently attended both a large mobile conference (AppsWorld) and an SAP conference (SAPPHIRE/TechEd). Every person that is implementing mobile in the enterprise is saying the same thing - capturing the mobile experience is important. But, there are so very few organizations doing it right now.

At SAP SAPPHIRE/TechEd this year there was a massive (I mean took up a very substantial area of one of the entrances to a conference hall) that was dedicated entirely to UI/Design Thinking[1]. This has never even had a tiny booth dedicated to it.

That being said. 2013 is not the year. 2013 is the just the beginning. I suspect design will become more of the norm in 2014 and beyond. I also suspect as my generation becomes more and more influencers in enterprise technology we will see that design creep in. But until the dinosaurs hold the budgets, it ain't happening anytime soon.

[1]- http://www.sapdesignguild.org/community/design/design_thinki...

Mobile is changing the way enterprises think the same way the web did: very slowly.

They will recognize the need long before they act on it. And when they act on it, it will be on an offering built to their specifications, with data connections to other enterprise systems that they have millions invested in.

And most of the initial mobile rollout for enterprise will be shoddy half-assed stabs in the dark by the same enterprise vendors they already have, that are neither well designed, nor disruptive, nor will they deliver on the promise of mobile particularly well.

The adoption rate may be slow but the market is massive, probably comparable to consumer web when you include all the medium and large business in the world. Combined with the fact that smart phones are becoming more and more popular among the consumers (i.e. the employees of these businesses), the uncaptured market size is growing fast.

Even now in slow industries like ECAD and MCAD I see AutoDesk, Dassault Solidworks, and Altium working on more collaborative software like their PDMs (like Solidworks Vault) and more mobile applications to view and annotate CAD models. AutoDesk especially has exploded with many web and mobile apps ranging from 3D scanning to editing and 3d printing.

I don't think 2013 is the year but it is certainly only the beginning.

I disagree that the enterprise market is growing that fast. Each new mobile enterprise user used to be a laptop enterprise user. This isn't a market that's drawing in new people, only migrating the existing ones to a different technology.

But that's every emerging market. Facebook didn't find a billion new people, they just got a billion people to do something different with their time, and that's all any new market does: get people to do something different with their time, money or attention.

So while the enterprise market isn't growing, the mobile enterprise market is.

Yes but unlike the laptop market, the mobile phone market is much more socioeconomically diverse. With the availability of internet access becoming more and more widespread around the world, more companies will be able to cheaply adopt it where it couldn't adopt any new technologies before.

That's what enterprise users care about. The users aren't necessarily the decision makers. I've worked on a large enterprise product for almost a decade. Sales took off big time when we restyled and started caring about usability. Now, there were many factors involved there, but having nicer sales demos surely helps.

But, it's true that feature checklists matter more than in the consumer space. This is why startups don't stand much of a chance. Without a mature product you can't even get considered, at any price.

The 'Design Matters More' line gave me pause when reading this as well. Aside from being contrary to personal experience, it made me think of how SalesForce largely replicated Asana's design in Do.com.

I can't agree more. In fact, they would rather just have whatever functionality you are selling them in whatever software they currently have.

Ideally, they want to use your product in their Salesforce/SAP. It might not sound pleasant but it's that kind of request that we consistently see coming from our larger customers.

The author seems to have a different view of what an enterprise application is than I do. Of all the companies he mentioned, only Salesforce and Workday look "enterprisy" to me (plus maybe Box on the lighter side of enterprisy). If I had to guess, I would say that's the source of the style over substance disconnect.

Also how is Stripe enterprise? Is any of the big enterprises ever going to use a payment system like Stripe?

I wouldn't say Stripe is 'enterprise', but I wouldn't call it consumer either. It probably could generically fall under the category of business-to-business. I'm not sure if the author was lumping in B2B with enterprise. It's possible larger enterprises may use Stripe in the future.

While your comment is true on its face, unfortunately it has led to a culture where inhouse applications suffer from horrendous usability problems. As a result, two things happen: you end up with a limited number of people who can actually use those tools (creating bottlenecks), and those people are not very efficient because the poorly designed nature of the tools means spending way too much time getting them to work properly.

edit: I think as an industry of professionals we need to get away from "it just needs to work, it doesn't need to look pretty." Even when I develop tools for personal use, I try to make them as usable as possible. It's easier to take pride in something that not just works well, but also looks good.

There a pretty big gulf between usable and pretty. Ugly doesn't mean unusable, and pretty doesn't mean usable.

Applications need UX usablilty. Cornflower Blue icons can come later.

The quality of a design is measurable by how well it works, not how pretty it is.

Finally someone who speaks sense.

This is why we ship bits, not boxes.

The changes are fundamental.

> "If they're pretty, that's a bonus, but well designed tools that don't answer these questions are just lipstick on a pig."

That statement of yours is truer than words could ever say. Enterprise doesn't want to strike back. It just wants to do what it knows to do best.

Now here is what I think about the whole situation: Lately venture capital is totally clueless about where to put their money. I don't know how many of you have heard of the new "10 million is the new 1 million" [1] catch-phrase?

Some have even reported that "they" are going to look at fewer large deals only in future (closed room conversations you know). Of lump-size $25 million each instead of putting 2.5 million in to 10 separate deals. Sounds like "digging the grave only a little deeper" but I could be wrong.

Color me bad, but consumer web is unbeatable in terms of growth, tenacity and also performance on the stock market. Look at Google story, for example. The new kids will probably learn about art of managing stock exchanges soon. That's how big enterprises have survived with little innovation to their credit.

And mind you, enterprise software like Salesforce, Yammer, Box, Asana or Linkedin all have consumer DNA in them. This DNA can be easily mistaken for "pretty design" actually.

There is no getting away from consumer web, in my opinion.

[1] Seems like Chris Dixon's blog is off so added the cached reference here: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://...

Design and usability do matter, indeed. Most enterprise applications fail miserably in that respect. However, I'm wondering how or if it is possible at all to disrupt common enterprise software segments such as:

- document management - time tracking - issue tracking - project management - information management

For all of these there already are great solutions. Most enterprise companies still to stick to the SAP, IBM and Oracle solutions they're used to, though. Part of the reason for this is bureaucracy and aversion towards change. Another issue is support. Companies like IBM can agree on extensive support and SLAs, which startups or SMEs certainly cannot. Finally, there's this well-know issue that the people the software is sold to most of the time aren't those who in the end have to use it.

Anyway, I think the enterprise market is very interesting because there's lots of money and potential in it.

So, what do you think would be interesting areas of enterprise software to tackle?

Truly the only blog title which could top this would be "Return of the ScrumMaster"

I will not be holding my breath for "Attack of the beanlet containers"

It is not enterprise that strikes back, it is the technology that strikes. Cloud, IT are doing good and so are enterprises and startups in same.

2013 is the year of open allocation: http://www.quora.com/Software-Development-Methodologies/What...

As the bubble deflates (slowly, because it came up slowly) engineers are realizing that they're probably not going to make $50 million on their 9th-employee startup equity and retire at 27, which means they need to optimize for something different: plan B, for most of them, is interesting work and career development. This is to the detriment of companies that "seem like" they could be worth billions based on macroscopics, but that really don't have better cultures than any other corporation. However, it provides an opportunity to drink the rest of the tech world's talent milkshake: learn from companies like Valve and Github and build a culture actually worth caring about.

Problem with enterprise is not a technology or even design, it is bureaucracy times mediocrity.)

The biggest problem with enterprise is budget. People tend to see short-term gain as opposed to long-term gain.

Bureaucracy and mediocrity are minor compare to the usual mindset of budgeting.

Enterprise needs to wake up as a matter of sustaining their advantage, otherwise a startup like Airbnb can eat them for lunch. With social media the market can shift dramatically towards any service that can deliver superior value to customers. So in my view Enterprises are driven much more by fear than any inherent need to serve better. Whatever the case may be, it does open up opportunities galore for astute startups, that have patience to deal with Enterprise quirks.

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