Want a sure-fire way to get business users to ignore your software? Try this: Carry on as before and forget about all of those newfangled Web 2.0 interfaces. They're a fad and/or a threat to corporate security, right? (Both of those arguments are starting to sound pretty silly, with the recent efforts of mega-vendors like Oracle and IBM.)
Such vendors apparently now recognize the importance of making software simple to use and non-intimidating to an "average" Joe or JoAnn. After all, user-unfriendly software is a big reason users may surreptitiously opt for non-sanctioned options such as Gmail or Google Docs. In an April blog post, I cited a quote from Anthony Deighton, senior VP of marketing for business intelligence provider QlikTech, that I thought nicely summed up this point. Discussing e-mail, Deighton wrote in a column for SandHill.com:
Microsoft Outlook is typically purchased by the organization and given to the user. It is very complex and difficult to use. Compare that experience to using any of the personal e-mail products -- Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, or others. These applications enable access to e-mail from any computer on the planet via a simple interface. They have fewer features but are far easier to use than Outlook.
The same point comes out strongly in a short video conversation between CNET News' Charles Cooper and ZDNet's Larry Dignan. Users accustomed to the ease of Google and Facebook tend to find enterprise applications sorely lacking in comparison, says Dignan, echoing Deighton's view. Adding a Web 2.0 twist to traditional apps should not only cut down on calls to the support desk, but may get rank-and file workers -- not just "Excel jockeys" -- more excited than they've been previously in extracting and using data from ERP, CRM and other systems, says Dignan.
Work remains to be done, however. In the video, Dignan mentions the Web 2.0 efforts of several enterprise vendors, calling one out for producing "the ugliest set of applications I've ever seen in my life," though being more charitable to others. (Hint: It's not Cisco. Dignan likes the new set of collaboration tools that company just rolled out.)