Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Coming Into Los Angeles

Coming into Los Angeles
Bringing in a couple of keys
But don't touch my bags if you please
Mister Customs Man
         --From Arlo Guthrie's "Coming Into Los Angeles

As I write this, I’m on the road again…Los Angeles.  It’s my good fortune to be attending some collaboration sessions on designs for new Oracle Cloud Applications.  Can’t talk about the apps being developed…sorry.  But the attendees include Oracle Development, the Oracle User Experience team, several Oracle customers, and a few people from my firm.  What I can talk about is some observations about the interaction.

The customers in this group are pretty vocal…a great thing when you’re looking for design feedback.  They’re not a shy bunch.  What’s interesting to me is their focus of interests.  Simply put, they’re not interested in the technology of how the applications work.  In the words of one customer addressing Oracle:  “that’s your problem now.”  

These customers are focused first on outcomes - this is what is important to my organization in this particular subject area, so show how you’ll deliver the outcome we need.  And, even more interesting, tell us about final states we have yet to consider that may make my organization better.  And, in both cases, what are the explicit metrics that show us that we’ve achieved that end state?

Secondly, they care about integration.  How will this new offering integrate with what we already have?  And who will maintain those integrations going forward?

Third, please show us what information we’ll get that will help us make better decisions?  Much of this discussion has revolved around the context of information obtained rather than simply delivering a batch of generic dashboards.  This is where the social aspect of enterprise software comes into play, because it provides context.
From these observations, I personally drew four conclusions:
  1. If this group of customers is fairly representative of all enterprise software customers, it seems that the evolvement of enterprise software customers from concerns about technology to concerns about quantifiable outcomes is well underway.
  1. Integration matters.  For the moment, customers seem more interested in best of breed solutions rather than purchasing entire platforms.  So stitching applications together really matters.  While I suspect that, as SaaS continues to evolve, customers will begin to consider enterprise software on a platform basis rather than going with best-of-breed point solutions.  But it does not appear that we’re there yet.
  1. Business intelligence, analytics, big data, whatever…it’s of limited value without context.  Customers…at least, these customers, are very interested in learning about their own customer personas and the historical data from those personas in order to predict future behavior.
  1. User Experience, while not explicitly mentioned during these sessions, has been an implicit requirement.  Good UX - attractive, easy to use, elegant applications - are no longer an option.  All the customers here expect a great UX and, quite frankly, would not even engage in a product design review without seeing a great UX first.
As I wrap up this post, it almost feels like I’m writing a book report for Ray Wang’s “Disrupting Digital Business”.  I’m in the process of reading the book and, now that my eyes are starting to open, I see instances of Ray’s points popping up all the time.  Great book.  More about it in a later post.

See now you know what I think I’m seeing and hearing.  Thoughts?  Opinions?  Comments.

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