Though definitely not as sexy to talk about as tagging, and mashups, and whom Yahoo acquired today, I think that the trends we’re witnessing in enterprise software will have a far greater impact than much of what’s being discussed.
And the most obvious trend is that the enterprise software market is being eaten away from below. My favorite case in point is Movable Type, the software which enables me to publish this blog. With a few modifications, it enabled Adaptive Path to publish it’s site. And then, as this post makes clear, with a fair bit of modification, it powers the site for SEED Magazine. What this demonstrates is what we’ve known all along — Movable Type isn’t a blog publishing tool — it’s a lightweight content management system. Blog publishing was essentially a trojan horse toward rethinking how to enable publishing on the Web.
In my world, content management systems (CMSes) have long been the enterprise software that has been the biggest pain in the ass to deal with. Typically modified from document management systems, these tools were big, bloated, unwieldy, expensive, and, most importantly, ill-suited to the task of publishing on the Web. What Movable Type did was start with the simple, and focus on supporting a true web-native genre, and then build up from there as need be.
Another enterprise hassle that I’ve been privy to are website analytics tools. These overblown metrics packages suffer all the same faults as CMSes. This was why I became so excited with the development of Measure Map — it’s site analytics “for the rest of us.” Which could evolve into site analytics for all of us. It, too, has humble blog beginnings, because that’s a well-bounded problem to solve. But it doesn’t take much imagination to see how it can evolve.
And while website development is what I’m most familiar with, I know that this eating from below is happening all over. Companies are realizing that the millions they’ve spent on “knowledge management” systems got them little more than confusing document repositories. So folks like Socialtext can package a compellingly light tool of blogs and wikis, and sell it cheaply enough that it doesn’t require budget approval from IT, and people can get their collaboration done without hassle.
And of course, Salesforce.com has completely rewritten the game when it comes to customer relationship management, and sales support software.
Through various projects with Adaptive Path, I’ve talked to a lot of people tasked with purchasing enterprise software. And, universally, no one likes doing it. No one likes talking to enterprise software salesfolks, no one likes the 3 to 6 months that the sales process takes, no one likes the 6 to 12 months that deployment takes, no one likes the costs, and almost no one likes the results. Enterprise software succeeded, though, because there weren’t many other viable options.
That, of course, is changing. These smaller point solutions, systems that actually address the challenges that people face (instead of simply creating more problems of their own, problems that require hiring service staff from the software developers), these solutions are going to spread throughout organizations and supplant enterprise software the same way that PCs supplanted mainframes.
I sure wouldn’t want to be working in enterprise software right now. Sure, it’s a massive industry, and it will take a long time to die, but the progression is clear, and, frankly, inevitable.