The Supply Side of the Consumerization of Enterprise Software
In my recent post about the consumerization of enterprise software I discussed two factors that are likely to accelerate the pace toward such consumerization:
- Any department/business unit that can get a service in entirety from an outside source is likely to do so without worrying about enterprise software and/or data center considerations. This is already happening in Marketing. As other functions start doing so, more and more links in the value chain of enterprise software will be “consumerized.” In other words, these services will be carried out without the involvement of the IT department.
- Once the switch-over costs from legacy code to state-of-the-art code are less than the steady state costs (to maintain and update legacy code), the “consumerization” of enterprise software is going to happen with ferocious urgency.
In this post I would like to add a third factor – the buying pattern. My contention is that the buying pattern for micro-apps will spread to enterprise application. Potential demand for buying in this way is huge. Supply for buying enterprise software as micros-apps is not quite there yet, but it would take only one smart vendor to start transforming the traditional pattern how enterprise software is chunked, offered and sold.
Think about your recent experience downloading an application to your smart mobile phone. You did not go through a six-month evaluation period; you did not do a comprehensive competitive analysis; you did not check how well the seller does customer support in Sumatra. You simply paid something like $7.99 and downloaded the application. You are more than happy if it fulfills your needs in a reasonable manner. If it does not, you simply buy another application with the functionality you desire. Maybe you are a little more cautious now and ask a friend or send an inquiry to your Twitter followers before you pick the new application. Whatever you might choose to do, the fundamental facts are: A) you can afford to lose $7.99; and, B) your time is more precious than the sunk cost of the application. You simply move on.
This buying pattern is not something that you are going to forget when you step into your office in the morning. It makes perfect sense to you and it would be good for your company. You would rather concentrate on your business than on the tricky language of clause number 734 in the contract that your department’s attorney prepared for licensing yet another piece of enterprise software.
The ‘$7.99 experience’ you and zillion other folks like you had over the past week or the past month makes enterprise software vendors extremely vulnerable. The “high-touch; high-margin; high-commitment”  business design is not sustainable once the purchase model changes. The expensive machinery of professional services, system engineering and customer support is not affordable at the face of competition that constructs modular chunks of enterprise software and sells them at a price the customer can afford to write off (if they do not perform to satisfaction). Maybe the ceiling in the enterprise to ‘forget about this application and move on’ is no higher than $1,000 (instead of ‘no higher than $7.99’ for the private citizen), but a smart vendor can still make a lot of money on selling at one thousand dollars a pop to the enterprise.
The growing gap between “this lovely application on my iPhone” and the “headache of licensing traditional enterprise software” is an immense incentive for up-and-coming software vendors to use the ‘$7.99 experience’ as the heart of a new business design. This new business design can be simply summarized as “low-touch; low-margin; low commitment” . And, yes, it is very disruptive to the incumbents…
My hunch is that the IT Service Management (ITSM) industry will be the first to crumble. The premise of “service delivery” sounds a little hollow in a cloud computing world characterized by “everything as a service” . Would a buyer be really willing to pay for “service for the service” from a vendor who does not actually provide the underlying service?! It sounds like paying a Fidelity or a Vanguard investment manager to manage a portfolio of their own mutual funds for you…
All it takes for this shift to start – in ITSM or in another part of enterprise software – is one successful vendor.
 I am indebted to Annie Shum for this phrase.
 I am indebted to Russ Daniels for this phrase.
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