While consumer software rapidly moves away from clunky, legacy designs and into the user-friendly, efficient world of mobile apps and streamlined websites, internal enterprise software has often been approached as an afterthought, or ignored altogether.
“Enterprise wise, there isn’t much attention being placed making internal tools more user-friendly,” said Anthony Porter, Head of Global Corporate Procurement & IT Global Strategic Vendor Services at Acxiom, a 48-year-old marketing technology company in the US. “They could be cloud-based and have a pretty WYSIWYG interface, but at the end of the day they’re not that much different to how they were 20 years ago. There’s a lot of complexity and a lot of different ways to get to an answer and the systems are not intuitive.”
This represents a huge opportunity for Nearshore vendors to begin developing the next generation of enterprise software, providing they can get the right partners.
Applying the Consumer Focus to the Enterprise
Modern online banking websites and apps are a great example of intuitive systems with clear outcomes. This real-time information gathering ability needs to be applied to internal enterprise systems.
When considering the IT procurement function, if companies want to know their global spend with a supplier, the ability to very quickly acquire that information would be invaluable. Today, Porter says, it still takes a lot of manual effort.
“I’ve stressed that if companies can create this kind of experience on the consumer side, they should be able to create a streamlined purchasing experience on the enterprise side,” he said. “The idea is to do this with software and hardware at enterprise levels, in a way that it can be accessed easily, such as from a cellphone.”
Porter has begun having some Nearshore conversations about creating a product from scratch that could bolt onto an ERP or a procurement system to achieve this, but is overall discussing it with the larger (unnamed) industry leaders, presumably because of their deeper pool of resources.
Understanding the Workforce and Business Needs
With all the mechanisms now available to provide feedback, today’s consumers are able to help improve customer-facing products. This same approach should be applied to internal teams that are using the enterprise systems every day. “For companies that take the time to listen, that feedback becomes invaluable and will form part of their product design considerations,” said Porter.
In taking this path, Porter suggests not to focus on being right from an IT procurement perspective, but in understanding the needs of the business, figuring out how to partner up with business units, and then moving as fast as possible. Various units have their own unique views of the company, but can’t necessarily focus on purchasing cycles, supply chain, or cost efficiencies when using an unintuitive system.
“When business units operate in silos, they can sometimes misfire,” said Porter. “When they work together on a cohesive, supply and demand view, they create better opportunities to partner and understand when the big items are incoming. This is universal across multiple industries – it’s not unique to a particular vertical.”
The Next-gen Enterprise System Opportunity
While many enterprise systems were highly customized to the business and required a lot of complexity, the shift now is toward creating unique products that are standard and don’t require much support, maintenance, or documentation.
“It’s a delicate dance when bringing in IT vendors to collaborate on this,” said Porter. “There is always intellectual property that needs to be guarded, and most companies won’t let anyone near their secret sauce. When you’re in a large vendor, you employ many smart people, so there’s an opportunity there to bring in a different perspective, perhaps from a consumer view or a previous experience. That is where partners can inject a diversity of viewpoints; there should always be a second set of eyes to illuminate the blind spots.”
IT procurement is changing fast, creating a great opportunity to inject some innovation. Licensing models change rapidly and Cloud is enabling businesses to procure software with credit cards, creating a challenge for most procurement departments. “The department needs to be able to do its job quickly, profitably, and securely, from a risk perspective,” said Porter. “We are still operating with legacy models that are not really adaptive to the velocity of business needs, so there’s a huge opportunity to create the same great experiences that people have in their personal lives.”