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Enterprise Blue Zero

I guess most of you have already seen the debate, as captured here,  here, here, and here. Is enterprise software sexy? Should it be? Can it be?

The entire debate is worth a read, the polarisations are fascinating. As and when I finish my Facebook series, I will get around to commenting on the avalanche [nb as per Doc Searls and his conversations with George Lakoff, a blog post is a snowball; it starts with the poster, but then gathers life and pace of its own accord; when this happens with many branches and forks, it seems reasonable to call it an avalanche.]

In the meantime, a few things stand out to me:

1. Outside-in design is an absolute must. We have spent far too long insisting on a distinction between what the employee uses and what the customer uses; as the walls of the organisation increasingly get porous, the distinction becomes false. Where I work, we are spending time and energy seeking to converge the two views, so that the customer and the employee exercise the same codebase. A goodly number of my guys are restricted to having the same applications access as our customers : how else will we know what our customers face?

2. Consumerisation amongst employees is a today issue. Tomorrow’s employees will insist on an applications experience at work that is at least close to the experience they have at home. Tomorrow’s employees will insist on using their own devices and choosing the way they want to interact with their apps. Platform and device agnosticism, with customisable UIs and skins, are must-haves, not nice-to-haves. In order to prepare for tomorrow’s employees we have to act today. Which is what we are doing.

3. Simplicity and convenience can be had at the same time as reliability and security. While Moore and Metcalfe and Gilder have acted in concert to provide us significant productivity gains over the past few decades, human longevity has not moved at anywhere near the same rate. As a result we are far more jealous of our time, and therefore things like boot sequences, boot-up times, management of screen real estate, all these things have really begun to matter. Today. That’s why many enterprises are spending considerable time on user centred design. Where I work, we’ve even changed our internal form and structure to cater for this. We don’t have network, product, process or IT departments. We are a Design department, focused on the user experience.

Searching for things within the humongous database that is the enterprise; searching not on a deterministic basis but on a probabilistic one, with heuristics and learning, preferences and profiling. Syndication or subscription, where individual information element changes are pushed out as if by RSS, rather than through formal structured enquiry screens fullof sound anf fury, signifying nothing. Fulfilment processes that don’t distinguish between booking a meeting room, a flight, a hotel room or a contractor. Conversational support covering blogs and wikis and IM rather than just snail mail and its often appalling electronic counterpart. These are the Four Pillars of the enterprise applications of tomorrow. Using any device, anytime, anywhere, with whatever modality of communications best suits purpose. Collaboratively filtered, rated and ranked. Learning and teaching.

Enterprise 2.0 is already upon us, providing us attractive, usable, reliable and secure applications. We just haven’t made the move to adopting it. But it’s happening now, with Generation M, mobile, multimedia, multitasking and here. Now.
An aside. It would appear that much of Web 2.o, from a consumer perspective, is about music and films and entertainment and gaming and pornography.  So what’s the enterprise equivalent of all these? What gets enterprise people’s rocks off?  Spreadsheets and presentations and databases. Go figure.

Enterprise Blue Zero is upon us. More later. I need to prepare for Le Web tonight, given that I intend to be watching Led Zeppelin tomorrow night. 

Posted in Four pillars .

13 Responses

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  1. sig says

    Well said JP!

    I must say I’m enjoying the discussion, Scoble made my fellow Enterprise Irregulars trip over each other to rebut, good fun indeed.. :)

    I would also suggest that:

    – Interface layer can be separate from the “boring” transactional engine, so no excuse there I say for not being on top of things in
    shorter cycles than 15 years.
    – Allowing “new ways” of “doing things” – i.e. rethinking and tweaking existing processes is not only possible but I think a must pretty soon. And that’s a tad non-boring for the public as well.
    – That more than half the business processes are barely repeatable and very people-centric and currently not covered by enterprise systems. Once such processes are covered enterprise systems will be in-the-face of everyone (that works). That day the public interest and Scoble’s hits on enterprise software posts will increase!

  2. Sean says

    “We are a Design department, focused on the user experience.” …of course investment banks are years ahead on this front, right? ;

  3. Don Marti says

    One good reason to design for the outside is that there’s no more “inside” and “outside” any more. Which is a freelancer working on one short-term project? Your lawyer? Your PR firm? An employee of a company to which you outsource something? If you don’t give employees a way to grant some access to people they work with who are part way “inside”, then they’ll go outside the company and use a a service that does.

  4. Susan Scrupski says

    Hi JP. As you read this, please listen to the soundtrack playing “You Light up my Life” accompanying this comment. :-) Clearly, you are in the vanguard of CIOs who have embraced the freedom, richness, and vast possibilities of the next generation web. Now that I know you “get” the design/user experience thing, I’m just about speechless. Let’s hope your evangelism has a viral effect on the CIO population at LeWeb3. Bonne Chance!

  5. Dennis Howlett says

    Looking forward to hearing your session at LeWeb 3 JP – hopefully catch up afterwards?

  6. JP says

    thanks for the comments and encouragement. Dennis, of course we should be able to meet. I will be there from around 930 am Tuesday, I arrive just after 8.

  7. PaulSweeney says

    All great points and great comments from “Sig”. It is very early days yet in the “E-2″ space but I think something significant will be imported from the world of “social media”, but that it will have to sit upon a “movable framework” of enterprise-type restrictions.

  8. Thomas Otter says

    You nailed it here. I’m convinced that a design led method is essential for building usable software. We (SAP) ran a workshop last month in Stockholm looking at the workplace of the future, and the insights that the DLI process brought to light were amazing.
    perhaps we ought to get our respective design thinkers talking together?

  9. JP says

    Good idea, Thomas. Why don’t we engage early in the new year and work something out? All the best, JP

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Irregular Enterprise mobile edition linked to this post on December 10, 2007

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  2. frogpond » Wiki usability and Enterprise software sexyness linked to this post on December 11, 2007

    […] and cost effectiveness that stand on their own anyway. This is no “fantasy land”, this is today, the 21st century and the changes will be great, and they won’t be about technology or tools: […]

  3. JP : AccMan linked to this post on December 18, 2007

    […] change management. All in the context of the new world of technology which we’re discovering. Check this mind blowing post about innovation in the enterprise space. More important, check the conversation around […]

  4. » Blog Archive » Accountants 2.0 linked to this post on January 15, 2008

    […] praises JP  for his views on Enterprise 2.0 and links through to a post that raises the issue of new employees entering the workplace equipped with a consumer application mentality expecting the same experience at work and how […]

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