Purists out there seek long term perfection. Do not drink champagne tonight … think about how you will feel in those years to come. These years come, yet their gaze is still fixed on the horizon.
Is enterprise software arriving at a Keynesian moment?
Let me try and explain…
John Maynard Keynes was aware of the neoclassical model of economic theory, namely the idea that the forces of supply and demand create a market equilibrium. Keynes posited that these long-term equilibriums sound wonderful in theory, but that in the short term they needed a little “outside” help to get there. Just waiting for the long-term theoretical scenario to occur naturally was, in his view, futile.
Short term governmental interventionist policy (mostly in the form of fiscal policy, for which he is most well remembered) was necessary for an economy to grow, he said – even if the models suggested otherwise.
So what can the enterprise world learn from this need to act in the short term, rather than try and build the theoretically perfect long term future?
Lean. Agile. Fast paced. Able to adapt. Ready for the 25th century!
These are the kinds of soundbites that are repeated over and over by the management at large industrial corporations. Sounds super sexy. Investors love it. All the press are talking about it. Every time a CEO says it, they stand a bit taller. Yes, they truly are pioneers in their field.
Quick engagement with digital solutions leads to vibrant, efficient and sustainable supply chain operations. The twitter feeds and news snippets are full of how pro-tech and pro-new entrants and pro-sustainability all of the big global businesses are.
That’s great, as there are so many really cool, innovative companies out there with amazing lean solutions that big corporates can use!
The technology “start-up” scene is absolutely thriving. It is running rampant, moving quickly, filling up with hungry ambitious minds seeking to deliver value to companies that can do better. Some are competing with established businesses, but most are actually serving them.
These tech companies are taking huge risks in backing their minds – risks that traditional corporates cannot take.
Smart incumbents are, and should be, taking full advantage of this.
There are too many to count. But to give you a flavour, here are some cool examples which we use at DeepStream which save us massive amounts of time and cost for our business:
- Pipedrive. Boiling down sales into deals and relationships. Simplified, clear, user friendly. Throws away all of the useless cumbersome functionality of other CRMs, and makes closing deals a lot more clear.
- Slack. A slick, simple and user friendly communication tool for within teams. Simple, simple, simple. All the complexity is “under the hood” – making the user experience fantastic! Information asymmetries are broken down – email is dead.
- Airtable. Super flexible and really different use cases (from to-do lists to sales efforts to reporting internally). A case study around a modular organic approach to how simple yet complex a product can be.
These are all enterprise products which took our company under a few hours to get started and understand the product. Shows how much of a joke these 9-18 month implementation processes are for traditional e-procurement software. Times in technology are changing fast.
Amazing! That’s great, I bet the big guys are thrilled to be able to tap all of that value on their doorstep!
Well.. yes and no. Many are talking a MASSIVE game around being lean, open for new tech, able to move quickly – when you dig beneath that sugar coated veneer, existing ways of thinking often prevail.
Why? Well, one take on it is that they seek their long term view of perfection in the solution they ask for. They are idealists, and they come with a shopping list of desire in terms of software functionality. But true technology is lean, agile… it starts and only improves with use. No use no improvement. It is the heart of creating an “MVP”, or “minimum viable product”.
But not everyone, right?
There is a huge cause for optimism, especially in the current environment. The talk from the top is giving the confidence to operational officers to start engaging more with new technology.
Mid-sized corporates, potentially less burdened by system wide processes and bureaucracy, have been particularly open to adopting new technology and ways of working – embracing agile ways of working and engaging with agile technology companies rather than sending them away with a shopping list without using them.
The current environment, as well, has really hammered home the need for lean operational efficiency, and technology is a clear avenue to reduce costs and maximise labour productivity with the use of productivity enhancing tools.
So what can companies do to leverage this thriving ecosystem out there?
1. Empower users to make decisions, democratise engagement of software services
This looks like a subtle difference, but is unbelievably important.
Software delivers value to users. The people actually using the software. So why is it decided by management, without deference to users to test it out, so often?
Empower your employees to seek the best tools that maximise their productivity. Give them something they love – they will repay you with higher productivity.
2. Focus on the product, not just the slick management presentations
Big software companies are amazing at coming up with the slickest presentations, often helped by an army of consultants, that speaks exactly to the desires of senior management.
But software is a product which is used, and delivers value through use. Who cares if theoretically functional block number 5,827 can allow you to map a material code to a user within a permission based system linked to your proprietary company matrix – when it is impossible to find and the usability of the software is terrible?
3. Start small, test, and organically expand
Focus on technology companies that back their product, and are happy to start small, rather than tying you into that huge contract deal without ensuring that it actually works for your business.
This allows hands on experience of software, low cost of getting started, and aligned payoffs – only spent when the product is actually being used by your company.
A fantastic example of this is the Slack fair use policy… just compare the way they operate and align themselves with users vs. the “stranglehold strategy” employed by the enterprise software giants…
4. The USSR collapsed: the 5 year plans are dead
This approach is the antithesis of all the lean and agile ways of working that drives the tech world. There might be a need for 5 year plans when investing into an infrastructure project, and everyone loves a big deal.
But software is a different beast.
You can start small, iterate quickly, and pay for what you use without committing to a huge liability regardless of how well the software actually suits your company’s needs.
My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough champagne
If corporates only focussed on the long run ideals, where in theory the best services to be provided to a company were in place and 100% fit for purpose, well, nothing would ever happen and no engagement would take place.
Furthermore, this long-term way of thinking encourages technology providers to be forced to promise the world. After all, the only way to win business is to fit exactly into the idealistics desires of their customers. This is not just costly, but unrealistic. It means that the companies have the deck stacked against them – they never actually deliver. Their services are geared towards providing the functionality to the letter rather than an amazing user experience.
Allow the short term to flourish, however, and the long term may just take care of itself. Small, lean, agile iterations driven organically by user needs will get corporations to a place they couldn’t not even think of in the beginning. And because it also encourages a thriving ecosystem of technology companies, corporations are not reliant on just one in case things do not go to plan.
So do not focus on the hangover, the potential long term stable state that is buried in handbooks and engineering textbooks… be a bit more like John Maynard Keynes, who musing on his deathbed said “My only regret in life is that I didn’t drink enough champagne.”
At DeepStream we can give you an entire stream of champagne, just ask for a demo to get started.