Building Enterprise Software Products That Don’t Suck

Aaron Levie, CEO and Founder of Box.net posted this excellent article on TechCrunch. I encourage you all to read it before reading onwards.

Levie describes a major shift in enterprise software towards ‘value to users’ vs. the old ‘perceived value to the CIOs’.

One of the key arguments in his article, that grabbed my attention is:

By focusing on building enterprise software that the users love, driving demand up to the CIO. Vendors like Workday, Jive, Yammer, or Rypple are responding by investing more in design, usability, openness, and the total user experience. They’re measuring success by user adoption, rather than feature checklists

I couldn’t agree more! Consumer products, such as the iPhone, iPad, Facebook and many others are changing the way people evaluate products, including enterprise software products.

Value to users is key decision criteria. Software vendors who fail to constantly improve and increase value to users will end up with shrinking user bases, resulting in replacement from others who will deliver the right value.

When thinking about the emerging customer-facing business models of subscription (SaaS) and pay-per-use, switching costs and vendor lock-ins cannot be a reason for enterprises to stick with overly complex products who fail to deliver ‘right’ value to users. We at Totango certainly appreciate vendors that do it differently, and create an ongoing dialog about value with their customers.

It is crucial for software vendors, to constantly monitor the current value their users are getting from their online software. It is the challenge and at the same time the big opportunity for the SaaS delivery model.

Luckily, measuring value is simple. Vendors can learn about the value their customers are getting by measuring how much the software is being used and how. By providing Totango Analytics service to some of the vendors Levie mentions in his article we’ve learned that investing a small effort in determining the right information to collect, companies gain great visibility of value their clients are getting (or not).

The need to constantly increase value to customers is inherent in the SaaS model and results in alignment of customer success and the vendor’s own business success.  Successful SaaS companies realize this and constantly strive to get immediate feedback on value by monitoring increases or drops is usage. Combined with fast-paced releases and methodical A/B testing, software vendors can focus on building customer-centric, value-first enterprise software products.

It’s great to share this vision with others. Enterprise customers should expect this level of value from their software vendors.

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