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Keep the Faith Vinnie, the Enterprise is Changing. Slowly.

Fellow Enterprise Irregular Vinnie Mirchandani is impatient.  He can’t understand why the iPhone can evolve so much faster than the Enterprise Software industry.  He cites a bunch of examples indicative of sloth on the part of the Old School that is the mainstream Enterprise Software world:

– “…a client’s list of aging software contracts. Most of the vendors want “uplift” fees for the older releases, not lowered ones reflecting software which hardly gets any enhancement and for which the client support calls have been minimal.”

–  SAP’s Business By Design will deliver a level of integration to the mid-market they’ve never seen before.  But it has taken 25 years to get there.  (And my own parenthetical note is that it still isn’t delivered)  

–  Why does it take so long for all these big Enterprise players to produce lighter weight software?  Oracle still hasn’t delivered on Fusion.

–  Most big enterprise companies are having a terrible time showing a decent Enterprise 2.0 presence.  Some members of the Enterprise Irregulars have taken to calling them the “drag queens” showing up at a younger crowd’s parties.

My answer to all this is SaaS.  SaaS has made life a lot better for a whole lot of folks, especially in small and medium sized business, but even in large Enterprise-class businesses.  Vinnie takes SaaS to task as well here, because while the Irregulars are arguing about multi-tenancy, he fears that workers in warehouses, the field, trading, hospital, or plant floor are seeing no benefits. 

I think Vinnie is wrong about that, or at least incomplete.  There are companies benefiting such environments.  Take a look at some of the Vertical SaaS companies that I’ve recently discovered.  Consider Athena Health, for example.  I’ll put them in the hospital category not because they belong, but because they’re automating the practices of many smaller physician’s offices. 

The last time I visited my doctor I was amazed to see everyone toting tablet PC’s.  In fact the sheer number of PC’s that had suddenly sprung up in the 2 years since I’d seen this specialist was unprecedented.  How did it happen so quickly?  Precisely because it was SaaS.  They just lit up the machines, typed in the appropriate account information and they were off and running.

I’m reminded of a similar experience we had at my last employer Callidus.  The VP of Worldwide Sales, Chris Cabrera, had his assistant running our SFA system.  She wasn’t an IT person, and didn’t consider herself particularly technical at all.  But she was able to run that system very nicely and we got a lot of value out of it.

So take heart, Vinnie.  SaaS really does change the game fundamentally.   It is going to be a long time before the Old Guard deliver it well.  It may kill them to do so.  The SaaS world has gotten bigger and bolder at a pace that is in keeping with your iPhone motif.  We’ve already accomplished more than the Old School did with their 25 years and we’re just getting started.

While you’re waiting for that Old School to show signs of understanding and renewed vigor, consider that there are lots of small companies like the one I’m with that are quietly delivering a great deal of value to their customers without a great deal of pain.

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