Enterprise Software Is Unsexy: Because It’s Not About Individuals, But Groups

Scoble sparked an interesting torrent with hisWhy enterprise software isn’t sexy post, recently:

Bill Gates seems to bemoan the fact that enterprise software isn’t covered by blogs and journalists. Instead, he points out, that we like talking about consumer software.

It’s a good point, especially since business software like that from Oracle, SAP, Microsoft etc makes a TON of money.

So, why is it so?

In my case, the basic orientation of enterprise software is a generation behind so-called consumer software in one critical architectural dimension.

The basic orientation of ‘consumer’ software puts the individual first, at the center of the world. I have written and spoken about this dozens of times (Social = Me First, The Individual Is The New Group, and others). Think of the organization of Facebook, Dopplr, or Flickr, or a hundred other successful social apps.

Enterprise software starts with the premise that the user is an employee, or member of the marketing department, or a minion in the IT department. The users rights and capabilities are tied to membership, not to individual identity.

This may seem like a necessity, but I don’t think it is. I am involved in the design of several work-oriented applications in which individual identity is still first, and membership in projects, universities, or companies is second.

I thnk we will see this design principle in more enterprise apps in the future, once people actually learn to see the difference. Today, I doubt that one in a hundred bloggers tracking the Web 2.0 space are aware of that distinction, so it’s no surprise that people in the enterprise or the average Joe doesn’t get it. Or Bill Gates.

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