Howard Dierking

Enterprise Software Must Die

Yup. All of it.

(Warning: this is a bit of a rant, so thoughts are based more in anecdote than data)

I understand that there was a point in time where building software that was capable of supporting large companies used to be an incredibly difficult task. At some levels, it still presents challenges. However, in the world of multi-tenant, mobile-driven, Internet-facing consumer applications, this characteristic of scale is no longer what is associated with the term “enterprise software”.

Instead, when one hears the term, they tend to think more of these characteristics:

At this point in time, I’m coming to the view that with one caveat (that one is that a system should support federated identity) that even the largest of enterprises should not select “enterprise software” and should actively start looking at rolling off of current investments in favor of solutions that have characteristics more like consumer software.

Why? A few reasons.

Consumer software, on the other hand, tends to have a near immediate off-ramp. Don’t like the experience? Find a critical bug that the vendor doesn’t seem interested in fixing? Don’t stress about finding a work around - just find a product that works better for you! On first inspection, this may seem like the wild west of constantly having to switch between SaaS providers. However, the great effect here is not the expectation that you will be constantly switching products, but rather that it forces all product vendors to focus on customer satisfaction and quality of service.

Put another way, at the end of the day, consumer software is about retaining customers via carrots whereas enterprise software retains customers with sticks (also known as lawyers).

So in sum, even when building software targeted at big companies, build the software as if you were building it for consumers. If you need a new capability for your enterprise, look past the big “enterprise software” vendors and find a consumer solution that also works for companies. Also, once you’ve got your license. Beware of deep customizations. If that’s what you need, go back and revisit your requirements to determine whether your selected product is still a good fit for your business. If you do need to customize, prefer public-facing APIs over intra-product hooks.

If we can shift our mindsets in this way, then hopefully - given enough time - today’s “enterprise software” can fade away into a distant memory.