As the saying goes, what you don’t know will hurt you. But in the case of buying business software solutions or developing software, what you think you know can also hurt you. With so much change in technology available in the marketplace in 2015, and a lot of hype and myths surrounding it, we asked several software experts to share advice about how to avoid making mistakes because of misperceptions. Here are the facts and their advice for buyers as well as software developers.
Advice for software buyers
Paul Ressler, principal, The Cirrostratus Group
Myth #1: “The cloud is not as secure as our data center.”
Reality: Despite the fact that public cloud providers have the security certifications to disprove this myth, it is still out there and it is getting harder and harder for medium-sized businesses to invest in the equipment, people, processes and tools to have a highly secure data center.
Myth #2: “If it is marketed as a “cloud” application, then it must be a modern application.”
Reality: There are a variety of ways to make older software look like a SaaS application. This may be a good solution for your business, but this does not mean that it is modern software that will be a good solution for the long term.
Myth #3: “Ease of use doesn’t matter for B2B software.”
Reality: Software that people want to use will substantially impact implementation time and the usefulness of the system. It may be hard to put into ROI terms, but I think Workday has proved this point.
Jeff Kaplan, managing director, THINKstrategies
Myth #4: Cloud and SaaS technologies are user friendly and therefore not difficult to deploy.
Reality: Although business software is becoming more user friendly, it is still extremely difficult to properly deploy and fully utilize despite all the advancements brought about by SaaS and cloud alternatives. These challenges continue to persist because the new generation of SaaS solutions very often has to be deployed within existing business operations and legacy software systems.
Therefore, it takes specialized systems/data integration skills to align the new SaaS solutions with the existing business applications and third-party data sources. These integration challenges can slow and even derail SaaS deployments and compromise the ROI of the SaaS solution.
Rob Reid, CEO, Intacct
Myth #5: A mega-vendor CEO said earlier in 2014 “In the end, the suite always wins. Always has. Always will.”
Reality: This is a myth perpetuated by the on-premises software empires from the days when integrating multiple applications was a broken, expensive process owned by highly specialized IT professionals. A suite seemed reasonable by comparison.
Today, the APIs and standards available from cloud software solutions remove the programming hurdles of the old days and allow companies to build flexible, unique, integrated business systems from multiple best-in-class vendors that solve critical business challenges.
The suite always won. Then along came the cloud. In today’s world best of breed has won and has provided choice for the customer. This is now a customer-driven marketplace, eliminating the need for customers to sacrifice their needs and adopt the suite solution.
Dan Miller, general manager of software vertical and vice president of finance, NetSuite
There are two misconceptions that, quite frankly, I’m still surprised to hear about from time to time.
Myth #6: All clouds are the same.
Reality: There continues to be an incredible amount of cloud washing going on in the industry. Vendors are throwing software written before the Internet even existed into a hosted environment, slapping the word “cloud” in front of it and trying to pass it off as modern cloud software when it’s really just an ASP offering. This is particularly true when it comes to the traditional on-premises providers of financial/ERP software.
It’s really the multi-tenant software with economies of scale that allows business to capitalize on the true value of the cloud.
Myth #7: Suites don’t provide the rich features that larger companies need.
Reality: There’s a persistent misconception that software suites are never going to satisfy individual departments because suites try to be all things to all people. That’s really not the case. In fact, building software to run an entire business is the only way you truly understand how everything comes together. Back-office systems that know what’s happening in the front office and front-office systems that know what’s happening in the back office provide a comprehensive view with a single data model that’s not a slave to cumbersome, brittle integrations.
Suresh Chandrasekaran, SVP North America at Denodo Technologies
Myth #8: A vendor-propagated myth is that enterprise software works as it is supposed to or advertised to do.
Reality: Enterprise software is not perfect and never will be, and users will discover bugs along with gaps in functionality. If you wait for perfection, you will miss opportunities in the marketplace. So, the sooner buyers acknowledge this and interact with enterprise software vendors to be interactive and open, the more they will progress in “real capabilities.”
Myth #9: Big vendors have better performance, features etc. because they have more resources to develop their products.
Reality: This myth is negated by the very fact that big vendors make several acquisitions of smaller companies every year to not only shore up their technology but also their competitiveness and revenue in terms of solutions.
Myth #10: Endorsements from big analysts like Gartner, Forrester and IDC tell the complete truth about the best-in-class capabilities in any given category of software.
Reality: Big analysts cater mainly to mainstream adopters of technology and therefore invest the most time in analyzing and recommending such vendors. They have little time left to do more than a cursory survey of the rest of the market and can easily miss a trend until it’s mainstream. That is not to say that their work is not valuable. Just don’t take it as the complete truth.
Advice for software developers
Paul Giurata, Managing Partner, Catalyst Resources
Myth #11: You can design a product and get it to market quickly, worrying about revenue generation in subsequent releases.
Reality: The problem with this approach is that value doesn’t flow automatically even if you create a great user experience. To be a successful design, you need from the very start to design the full business system, including the revenue model. You don’t want to end up in a position where you flip the switch to the revenue-generating model and suddenly a myriad of problems crop up that you didn’t anticipate. By focusing early releases on revenue generation, an organization is forced to deal with issues of infrastructure completeness as well as how user experience addresses and influences a customer’s willingness to pay.
Myth #12: Mobile apps need to be self-contained, standalone solutions that command extended periods of customer engagement (2 – 30 minutes).
Reality: Apps that deliver contextually relevant micro-moments of information (5 – 15 seconds) several times a day will become the new model for competitive advantage. Think Google Now and iOS app extensions, but for business and enterprise delivering glances of information or functionality within other apps that are useful to the customer at the right time and the right place. This is especially relevant to the Internet of Things but also relevant for any SaaS app where the Web browser version is too feature rich for contextual use on a phone or phablet.
Suresh Chandrasekaran is senior vice president at Denodo. Throughout his career in product management and marketing roles at Vitria, Alta Vista, Compaq and as a management consultant at Booz Allen, Suresh has helped businesses leverage information through the medium of technology to deliver a competitive advantage. He speaks frequently at conferences on technology and its business impact, drawing from 15+ years of experience in leading integration middleware and Web companies. Contact him at email@example.com.
Paul Giurata is the managing partner for Catalyst Resources, a user experience and application design firm headquartered in Silicon Valley. He and his teams have worked on more than 450 software projects in Financial Services, SaaS, Life Sciences / Biotech and mission-critical systems. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jeff Kaplan is the managing director of THINKstrategies, founder of the Cloud Computing Showplace and host of the Cloud Innovators Summit conference series. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Daniel Miller is general manager of NetSuite’s software vertical and vice president of finance. He brings over 25 years of professional experience to NetSuite, most recently as SVP and CFO of Nexant where he managed accounting and IT corporate service groups, and led financing initiatives to support strategic growth plans. He began his career as a senior accountant with Deloitte & Touche, subsequently serving as senior treasury manager for Genentech and corporate controller for Extreme Networks before moving to executive roles.
Robert Reid is CEO of Intacct Corporation, a leading provider of cloud financial management and accounting software. With more than 30 years of experience in the software industry, Rob has a proven track record of driving explosive growth at innovative companies, and has demonstrated a deep expertise in bringing cloud computing to the world of business applications.
Paul Ressler is a consultant specializing in service delivery for SaaS, cloud computing and managed services. As the principal of The Cirrostratus Group, Paul helps his clients improve customer satisfaction, raise service margins, introduce profitable new services, and transition to the SaaS business model.