Consumer Grade

Historically, enterprise software buying has occurred in silos ruled by IT overlords. IT commanded what computers, smartphones, and software you had to use. In most places, this is still the case, but the fact that most employees use their devices (tablets and smartphones) at work means they’ll have a say in what they are willing to install. If apps aren’t up to people’s standards, they won’t be used as much, and the ROI for these big purchases will never be recouped.

“Enterprise-grade” used to mean something for corporate IT buyers, who get warm fuzzy feelings from buying software built with security, traceability, and compatibility in mind. The old saying goes: “Nobody got fired for buying IBM.” First and foremost, IT buyers are buying peace of mind since it’s their job; thus, they have set strict features that the vendors must comply with.

The battle for IT mind share will move elsewhere as the so-called “enterprise features” become standard for most SaaS products. It could be argued that corporate buyers will increasingly evaluate products based on their overall UI/UX and mobile capabilities. Companies like Box, Jive, and RelateIQ have a good head start.

The BYOD trend will curve the demand towards better and more usable software in the enterprise. People have seen the difference in what great software can do, and more will want better and more accessible tools to use at work, just like what they have at home.

“Consumer-Grade” software will take on a new meaning. This is the intersection where IT gets their feature checklist (to cover their butts), and end users work the way they like: with easy-to-use, beautifully designed web, mobile, and tablet applications that work. This is not a trade-off where we’re sacrificing “power” features for usability. It results from rising incumbents in the enterprise software space finding their competitive edge by embracing what’s already standard in consumer products. The 800 lb. gorillas will have to adapt, or they will become obsolete very fast.

Aspiring entrepreneurs have an incredible opportunity to take advantage of this shift in buying behaviors and disrupt companies that lack innovation in these critical areas. As more enterprises go SaaS, they’ll look towards changing some of their legacy vendors with new, mobile, and consumer-friendly offerings. As a result, startups have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do what big companies have a hard time: innovate.