Monday, March 14, 2011

Crossing the Chasm Between Consumer and Business Technology

How can it be that consumer technology manages always to deliver on ease of use, compatibility, and basic human appeal? Why do we have to deal with ugly, difficult, clunky software in the business world? How is it that there are standards that have been pervasively accepted and implemented for cell phones and all manner of electronic gadgets? Don't you ever wonder why it is that consumer technology hits the spot and continues to do so?

A huge contributor to the difference is the nature of the products themselves. Consumer electronics, phones, and even software are basically "throw-away." They are low cost and are expected to be completely replaced every couple of years, so consumers are forgiving of bugs and don't even think about upgrades. They simply get a new one. Maintaining the history of the world part 2 or part 1 is not the responsibility of these devices and software. The closest they come is the need to accommodate a few years of contacts' phone numbers and addresses. And even that.. only the business users of these things care.

For consumer software, the imperatives of interoperability with existing and old technology are very minimal, limited to internet and communications standards, which are discreet and maturing. The consumer market is huge, and with the constant replacement by customers, it's a path of enviable "recurring revenue" streams. Besides that, marketing to consumers is much more intuitive and pervasive than targeting the specific individuals who might want/need the business solution and also have the authority and the budget to buy it. With business systems, there's no walking by a store, seeing a flashing display, and buying on impulse.

For business software product companies, it's a whole different world: more complexity, expectations for longevity, necessarily higher price tags, and requirements of "upward compatibility" for new releases. There is always the imperative of having to work in tandem with everything else that's in place or being invented by competitors.

So our challenge is to figure out how to close the gap and move business technology closer to consumer technology. Of course, it's SaaS that offers the greatest potential to shake up the software product market over the next few years, but I think that Agile Integration will come into the mix in a big way, dramatically simplifying the underlying corporate IT infrastructure.