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3/26/2015
08:00 AM
Sameer Bhatia
Sameer Bhatia
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3 Priorities For Enterprise Applications In 2015

Competition and cloud delivery haven't done enough to improve enterprise apps. Buyers must pressure vendors for better features, improved usability, and meaningful analytics.

9 CIO Tech Priorities For 2015
9 CIO Tech Priorities For 2015
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With the rise of software-as-a-service, enabled by new tools that support speedier development and implementation, there's a huge and fast-growing number of enterprise applications available for nearly every business process imaginable. From financial management and customer relationship management to marketing and booking corporate travel, there’s an app (or 20) for that.

But more doesn’t always mean better. The proliferation of apps hasn’t necessarily meant that businesses have succeeded or realized the returns on investment they expected from these new products. In some cases it has been quite the opposite, as a large number of enterprise application implementations still end in failure.

How can companies safeguard against failure and ensure that they get the maximum possible benefit from their software investments? They can take several steps, such as aligning software purchases with business goals, getting executive buy-in, and providing adequate training. However, a good deal of the responsibility also rests on the software vendors, which need to do more to ensure that companies can succeed with their products.

[ Want more on 2015 priorities? Read 5 Analytics, BI, Data Management Trends For 2015. ]

Here are three areas where enterprise apps need to improve, and what software buyers can do to make that happen.

Insist on better features, not more features

The explosion of enterprise apps has resulted in a features race; every vendor wants to make sure that their product has checked all the boxes on the software comparison charts. But features aren’t everything. In fact, too many extraneous features can result in the software becoming overwhelming. The term for this condition is software bloat.

Rather than focusing on feature-comparison charts, software buyers should instead concentrate on the features they most need and ensure that those features work exactly as desired. In 2011, software expert Janus Boye identified eight content management system features that customers rarely use. While sophisticated workflow features, for example, may be nice to have, firms looking to buy CMS software would be better off prioritizing responsive design and mobile support, which provide a better experience for end users.

Let the focus be on feature quality and functionality, rather than looking for check marks in every box on the feature list.

Focus on usability

Usability has always been a stumbling block for enterprise applications, and it hasn't helped that vendors have focused too much on adding features while ignoring the user experience. Usability is improving, with the recent shift toward "consumerized" technology, but enterprise apps still have a long way to go.

Let’s take CRM as an example. In 2007, a study showed that the main challenge for business executives in implementing new CRM software was getting people to actually use the applications. In that study, 72% of respondents said that they would give up features to gain better usability. Fast-forward to a 2011 Nucleus Research study that found that ease of use is still rated as the most desirable feature in a CRM app. A quick perusal of articles and whitepapers over the last year shows that CRM users are still demanding better usability, particularly when it comes to mobile apps.

This year, communicate with your enterprise software vendors to make sure that they are getting usability to the level where it needs to be. Acquisitions and competitive threats all too often emerge as distractions, but don't let your vendors take their eyes off this ball.

Demand meaningful data and analytics

Big data has been a trending topic, and software vendors have been quick to add data-collection tools to their enterprise apps. But collecting data is different than understanding it, and just because a data set is big doesn’t mean it's useful.

Many companies are struggling to gain insights from the massive amounts of data they are collecting. In the energy industry, for example, poor data quality and a lack of integration is preventing companies from getting the most out of their analytics. And a recent study by Accenture and GE found that fewer than 30% of companies are using big data to make predictions.

This year the focus needs to shift from collecting more data to collecting more meaningful data. We also need better tools and analytics that businesses can use to gain meaningful insights. The Association for Computing Machinery advises that one way to make sense of big data is through data visualizations. Rather than relying on the same reports that have traditionally been used for “small data,” explore the opportunity to gain more meaningful insight through data visualization.

Enterprise apps and app vendors have made great strides in helping companies compete effectively in the fast-paced, fast-changing modern economy. But to ensure not only high rates of adoption, but also high rates of success, more needs to be done. Let’s make 2015 the year we focus on better features, improved usability, and more meaningful data.

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Sameer Bhatia is founder & CEO of ProProfs, a provider of online learning tools for building, testing, and applying knowledge. Email him at [email protected] and find him on Twitter @sameer_bhatia. View Full Bio
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tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 10:59:28 AM
Re: Smart Technology Makes for Great Customer Experience
"I think integration will come with the use of more and more cloud architectures inside the Enterprise, because otherwise how would you run Legacy Systems?"

@yalanand: I think it depends on which context you're looking at integration from. One aspect of integration is the use of legacy systems with new ones. The other form of integration is between different systems which are part of the same domain/environment. I was referring to the latter.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 7:28:54 AM
Re: Smart Technology Makes for Great Customer Experience
@Shamika: Most companies don't use an insider to do the job. They hire third party logistics because they are fast and they are cheap.
yalanand
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yalanand,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 7:27:41 AM
Re: Smart Technology Makes for Great Customer Experience
@Tzubair: I think integration will come with the use of more and more cloud architectures inside the Enterprise, because otherwise how would you run Legacy Systems?
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 4:07:51 AM
Re: Smart Technology Makes for Great Customer Experience
" Organizations need more integrated technology and smarter processes that combine data and information – across multiple platforms – to streamline routine transactions."

@Colman: I agree with you on this. I think integration will play a key role as we progress. What you do need right now is a higher level of integration between different devices so that they're able to talk to each other and add more value. They need not be more sophisticated but should have the ability to get integrated in the environment.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
3/29/2015 | 3:53:12 AM
Applications of technology and data
 

"Let's make 2015 the year we focus on better features, improved usability, and more meaningful data."

 

Interesting read and the last line sums it all up. What we really need is not better technology but better usage of technology. We do not need more data to be captured, but we need better organization and the ability to make meaningful conclusions from the data. I think we're moving towards the next phase in the information age where the applications of technology and data will change the game for companies and not the technology or the data alone.
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
3/27/2015 | 11:25:40 PM
Re: Smart Technology Makes for Great Customer Experience
Data analysis and reporting has become vital for any system. It is always better to have inbuilt reporting and data analysis tools than downloading data and performing analysis using various other tools. 
shamika
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shamika,
User Rank: Ninja
3/27/2015 | 11:21:46 PM
Re: Smart Technology Makes for Great Customer Experience
Great article and thank you for sharing this Sameer. Better features will always help people to perform their task well. A simple system with better features will be convenient than having a sophisticated system.   
ColmanAMurphy
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ColmanAMurphy,
User Rank: Apprentice
3/26/2015 | 7:56:35 PM
Smart Technology Makes for Great Customer Experience
Sameer – Great article. It's true that more features and data collection don't necessarily mean a better user experience. Nor does it mean faster or more efficient business processes. Organizations need more integrated technology and smarter processes that combine data and information – across multiple platforms – to streamline routine transactions. Smart technology combines the industry's best practices in collaborative business processes and ECM, and integrates new delivery models such as cloud-stored content and mobile interfaces. These can enable better, faster, more reliable and more accurate processing, and ultimately, a better end-user experience. – Colman Murphy, Xerox, @ColmanAMurphy 
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