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The future of business applications

Posted by Joerg G. Beyer
Quote from the CEO von SAP:

"If I look at how my kids are consuming software, if it’s not desirable immediately, they throw it away. Can you imagine what happens to your IT landscape when these people come into business? I don’t know how you want to keep your IT strategy going so we’d better make our software delightful as well.”

It is quite popular that employees bring their own device to work to be more productive. The reason is pretty simple: in addition to a very intuitive handling and use of the devices you got useful apps on it. In contrast to that large software providers slumber to adjust to these trend, to adapt to changed user experience, to transfer these experience into professional and business life. Why should they? The customer base is already that large that they will survive another couple of years. A migration to another system will cost the customer too much and they want to achieve more value for money with such a migration. No easy task for both parties.
This is the moment of new SaaS companies. But it is not enough just to offer your service cloud-based. The future workforce is expecting this as a minimum. Furthermore they want to be supported in fulfilling their tasks, and they want to be motivated to stay active. They won’t accept that they will be limited by an application. And they are used to have all relevant knowledge at their fingertip. This leads me to the following objectives (not exhaustive):
  • Support: as easy as Google
  • Motivation: as interesting as facebook
  • No limits: growing as Wikipedia
  • Knowledge: useful as Excel
Having that said, it is obvious that is not sufficient to transfer data and services to the cloud or just provide a nice graphical user interface. There is more behind that, but what?

Let’s take a look at a company using traditional ERP software.

From a user perspective the daily work with an application is in the center of work. Apart from loss of efficiency and consequential demotivation of employees you can see field-stuffed forms, automatically generated workflow tasks and inflexible task sequences. Why is that? Traditional business applications ensure the consistency of a task group by “forcing” the user into a pre-defined task sequence. He has to work on a task group task by task, no chance to do it in a more natural way. For example: An invoice cannot be sending out before an order has been received and not before the customer base data are finally edited. This is ok, but the way it is implemented in a business application is not user friendly. In some cases you would like to prepare the invoice even if you don’t have all customer data ready. No need to send out the invoice, but prepare the ground. All objects could be maintained separately, but the business process – the final verification of an invoice – must be ensured by the system, not the way how to achieve this.

Use-oriented instead of data-oriented

This brings me to my conclusion: convincing software should be use-oriented and not data-oriented. Instead of a fixed action sequence a modern software product will provide a framework while ensuring consistency. Furthermore the software is ready to use and will evolve over time. And finally, this software is characterized by an easy hop-on/hop-off.

I hope that we will see more on more of this kind of business applications in the next 12 to 24 months. They will change the market for business applications. And that is what we all need!


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