Robert Scoble started a debate over the weekend when he wrote that enterprise software isn’t sexy.
I guess Scoble struck a nerve as his post caused a frenzy in the enterprise blogsphere, and on a Sunday…

Here are some of the comments:
Michael Krigsman, Nick Carr, Jason Wood, Dennis HewlettEd Hermann, George Ou, Ross Mayfield, Susan Scrupski,
Ian Joyce, Anshu Sharma, Craig Cmehil, Sadagopan, Vinnie MirchandaniStowe Boyd and Alan Patrick, and Thomas Otter. (see Techmeme for more)

I think the Damn proud to be “un-sexy” post by Vinnie Mirchandani exposes the root problem in SAP and in enterprise software in general:

..Yes, we will never have the glitz of  following a Facebook or Twitter or an iPhone, but the software and other technologies we cover cut checks, invoice customers, design products, manage supply chains, keep the wheels of commerce turning.

Aren’t you glad some of us find that sexy -)”

I have to side Thomas on this one. So what if enterprise software runs complex business processes and has to support standards, laws and regulations? Does it mean that the interface to these process has to be complex?

Why do I need a PhD in economics to be able to fill out an SAP expense request? Or a dedicated HR person that will file my vocation and attendance information into the ERP because its too complicated for the untrained to do so (and I’m a tech guy, imagine what its like in low-tech companies)? How can we let “enterprise” be an excuse for over complicating even these simplest processes?

Google is a great example for hiding complexity. I can’t even imagine the cloud computing hell, the algorithms and the army of computer science PhD that make Google work, and yet, all that complexity is hidden behind a simple text box where I just need to write my search term and get instant results. Simple, effective and usable by anyone without the need for special training.

Amazon too, have a simple, friendly interface tailored per customers needs. Behind this interface Amazon has to process and store a huge amount of data and manage complex business scenarios – supply chain management, invoicing, etc. – in a reliable and secure manner, etc.

Even look at personal banking applications like Mint and Leumi. They provide reliable banking expertise wether you’re a simple user, a day trader or a professional broker.

So what makes enterprise software different? If the above companies can make engaging and intuitive software while still enabling execution of complex business processes in a reliable and secure manner.
New business software disrupters, like SalesForce.com, are taking advantage of the simplicity and ease of customization features we see in consumer applications.
Enterprise software makers like SAP, still stuck somewhere in the 80s computing age, need a serious change of mindset in order to be able to continue competing. The current way of doing things doesn’t lead to anywhere…

So, maybe Vinnie is proud to be “un-sexy” but I’m damn tired of getting the evil eye (at best) whenever I tell someone I work for SAP…

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One Comment to “Sexy Enterprise Software?”

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