How simple can enterprise software be? A primer

With all of the fancy, expensive and new software out there, you would think that the ushering in of Enterprise 2.0 began as a call to build bigger software. You’d think it is a call to build software at all.

New software is an inevitability. Whatever your current swath of enterprise apps includes, you have probably come to terms with throwing a lot of it out in order to get to that place we call “2.0”. The question is, what direction do you go? Do you layer on more software? Do you tear away all that you have right now? Do you mash some of the new with the old?

I thought we could take a look at just how your next installation of enterprise software should look, and why.

If your software doesn’t help people connect and solve problems together then you aren’t doing anything new. If you are a better looking, cheaper, more fun Project Management Application, probably even delivered over the web as a service, then you are a great Office 2.0 solution, but you are not Enterprise Social Computing, or even Enterprise 2.0.

1. The core idea is that people share
All the peripheral conversations are just distractions. The only new idea here is that conversations between all the layers of your organization completely change how work gets done.

How can you help people do this? Install a simple message board. PHPBB being the most obvious. There are other solutions (such as what I have been working on) that are a little more involved, but are essentially just great message boards.

My favorite message board design is: Chowhound. If you could replicate that, you are doing great.

2. Advocate tools
Now that a core group is comfortable using your first piece of truly social software, you need to let them become evangelists for the tool. To do this, you need to give them the tools to invite others in to the space, to share stories about what has been accomplished in the space (through case studies, or, primarily, well formed tales).

There is a whole world of Viral Marketing handbooks out there, and no doubt they can be of great help, but you will also find that at the end of the day it will come down to conversations, in the hallways and before meetings, that convince people to check out this new thing

3. When they are good at sharing, people will want better ways to connect
As your social software grows the number of users and different interest groups will become seemingly unmanageable.

Giving people a set of personal tools to filter through the noise becomes important. The problem is that each person will see the noise in a different way. Some people thrive with noise, they skim and scan and get a large, but shallow, understanding of what is going on. A large number of people will, however, become paralyzed.

Anyone who has used Facebook will understand that the first line of filtering should be your own Social Network.

In the last 3 years, we have done a lot of work with trying to use social networks as primary filters. This is hard work and it can often result in failure. The biggest problem is building the toolset in such a way that the user understands that their network is an actual tool, not just a place to collect friends. This changes habits dramatically.

This is the most complicated level your software should reach. No more.

4. Keep the user at the center
At this point you probably have at least 300 active users, some places will be at 5000 by this point. With this kind of adoption, different levels and silos of management will start to “buy in” and you are going to get pushed in many different directions.

Before you know it, you will be asked to integrate BPM, Email and Sharepoint into your platform.

Fight this tooth and nail.

5. This is the living room
Before we move on and look at what toolsets might be appropriate as your platform gets more popular, it’s important to remind ourselves that we haven’t just created a piece of software, or a set of features, we have created a living room. A busy lounge full of all your best friends.

If you tried to turn Cheer’s into a Chili’s, it’s safe to say that the place might lose some of it’s regular visitors.

So, remember, some of the squeaks in the floors, and the slightly awkward way some things now work, those are the real features, because they remind people that they are in a place where it is OK to be themselves.

6. Don’t integrate, but link
If every organization was using OpenID, you could skip this step, but most often, with clumsy LDAP databases and old Identity Federation systems, you can’t.

Start to link out to other enterprise applications. A simple toolbar

7. You just might be the village idiot
It doesn’t take great smarts, analytical skills or an MBA to bring Social Computing to your organization. It doesn’t take great smarts, analytical skills or an MBA to participate in a community either.

You are going to have to come to terms with the fact that none of your smarts, your MBA or your 30 years of experience within your organization will make any difference. Success does not depend on you or your strategy.

Some people accept this, but others fight it. Talk of Policies, Codes of Practice, Launch Strategies and Adoption Strategies are all just mean to cloud the nervous nature of the pioneer.

Accept your fate. This is not a career maker, at least it won’t be if you try to make it so.

8. This won’t work for you
I find a little bit of humor in writing a post like this. It is pretty prescriptive and “smart”, but if you take it at face value, it is pretty open ended. The real guidance is: Start slow and build slow. Avoid convoluted strategies and bootstrap bootstrap bootstrap.

2 thoughts on “How simple can enterprise software be? A primer

  1. Without an efficient software infrastructure, we could not have coped with the expansion of the past years.
    Previously, financial accounting and retail were accommodated
    by stand-alone applications. A custom interface supported
    communication between the two applications, which meant
    that data had to be captured twice or imported a second time.

    The company realized that at some point in the near future,
    this type of data handling and storage would no longer support
    our expanding business and would render the system too inflexible to support the expanding number of product variants. This led to the decision to implement a new
    solution that could handle everything – now and in the future.

    We are in San Diego and were paired up with a company called Tryarc in Los Angeles. They are a premier SAP business partner. While our first impression was SAP is too much for what we need, Tryarc turned us onto the SAP solution for small and midsize enterprises; it’s called SAP Business One.

    A subsequent presentation of the product had us convinced.
    SAP Business One was implemented in just a matter of weeks –
    in part because the standard functions of SAP Business One
    matched 95% of our business processes. We implemented an interface to our Web shop using SAP Business One Software Development Kit, enabling incoming Internet orders to flow automatically into the business software.

    Now, all enterprise management functions are accommodated
    in one system. SAP Business One provides entirely new
    opportunities. The only alternative would have been to invest
    considerable sums in additional stand-alone solutions. Our
    infrastructure made this pointless. In addition to being the more economical solution, SAP Business One is more comprehensive. It plays its part in making the processes
    in the company much more transparent than before. Purchasing
    and sales processes used to be separate, manual transactions
    supported by paper forms that were stored in file cabinets and
    forwarded by hand when required.

    Today, when an order is created and confirmed, a delivery note
    and invoice are generated, giving the warehouse the go-ahead
    for delivery. In parallel, the transaction is shown as an open item in accounting. If the merchandise is in stock, customers can receive their order immediately.

    Finally, each department can access this system and exchange data with the other divisions. The result is a significant improvement in the internal information flow. This is particularly important for an enterprise like ours that covers all of the manufacturing steps – from development and production to sales and technical support.

    Today, the time between placing an order and delivery averages less than 24 hours. The improvements delivered by SAP Business One lay the groundwork for the continuing growth of our company. For example, we are planning to exchange price
    and delivery data with its customers via an electronic data
    interchange interface in the near future.

    The enterprise wide system is an investment worth it’s weight in gold. We could not be happier with SAP and the people at Tryarc who helped us get up and running.

Comments are closed.