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Enterprise Software & Sex Appeal

Posted on Sunday, Dec 16th 2007

Nick Carr, Robert Scoble, Michael Krigsman squabble over whether Enterprise Software should be designed to be sexy, cool and fun.

Shouldn’t everything be designed that way?

No wonder Enterprise Software has poor adoption despite millions of dollars spent!


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Enterprise software has poor adoption? Hardly.

Consider the revenue of companies such as Oracle, SAP, CA, and so on. Where does their revenue come from if user adoption isn’t there.

On the other hand, you might raise the issue of user satisfaction and make a valid point. Although enterprise software has very wide adoption, it is often disliked by users. There are many reasons for that, including economic priorities during development, poor skills in user interface design, user’ distaste for being forced to used the software, and so on.

Michael Krigsman

Michael Krigsman Sunday, December 16, 2007 at 5:54 AM PT


Enterprise Software does have poor adoption. If you
look at how many people inside the enterprise actually use the complex systems like Business Intelligence, you will see that the penetration is very low.

Companies like SAP are very aggressively trying to address this issue. I know, because SAP has been a client of mine.


Sramana Mitra Sunday, December 16, 2007 at 11:41 AM PT


No doubt the extent of unused enterprise software licenses is far too high, and it’s one of my criteria for IT project success/failure. Look on my blog, and you’ll see I’ve written about this.

However, how do you reconcile the assertion that user penetration is low with the high revenues these companies generate? That argument is unclear to me.

Aside from that, I don’t believe overly-low penetration is primarily driven by poor enterprise software user interfaces, or even usability as a whole.

Personally, I think overly-low penetration results from such drivers as:

  1. Poor implementation processes, where users are not fully consulted about their needs prior to purchase of the software.

  2. Poor fit between the business needs of the organization and functionality of the software.

  3. Lack of user training.

Of course, easier, friendlier software should always be an important goal, and enterprise software companies generally do a poor job in this area. However, I disagree with those who believe this is the root cause of enterprise software’s lack of sexiness, or lower than desirable rates of user adoption.

By the way, I read your blog all the time, and have to ask how you have time to post so much. As an aside, I have also done much for SAP over the years.


Michael Krigsman Sunday, December 16, 2007 at 1:52 PM PT

I have to agree with Michael.
But then the question is – what really is “low penetration”. SAP, Business Intelligence are fairly specialized software and I can’t see how anyone not directly involved with the function they serve is going to use them.

Gaurav Monday, December 17, 2007 at 12:02 AM PT

To clarify something – I’ve done much “work” as a consultant for SAP over the years.

Michael Krigsman Monday, December 17, 2007 at 3:51 AM PT

Not only is enterprise software not sexy, but the associated marketing and communication are terribly boring and repetitive as well. It almost seems like the messaging was created out of a Mad Libs game with words/phrases like Return on Investment, Total Cost of Ownership, Competitive Advantage, Business Agility, Productivity etc. thrown around generously.

At the end of the day, the buyers and users of enterprise software are the same people who watch youtube videos, share photos online, listen to music online and IM with their friends. Why would they not respond to similar style of consumer-like messaging in the enterprise software world?

Sudarshan Dharmapuri Monday, December 17, 2007 at 2:03 PM PT

Well, I think, usability remains a big issue with enterprise software. To answer Michael’s question about how to reconcile high revenue versus low adoption, it is pretty simple: a LOT of enterprise software has been sitting on shelves. Siebel is a classic example of software sitting on enterprise shelves. PTC is another. These were companies driven by sales people who knew how to close deals, but not necessarily how to drive adoption.

And Michael, if it is not obvious to you, I work very, very hard to run this blog and the rest of my life 🙂

Sramana Mitra Tuesday, December 18, 2007 at 12:49 PM PT

[…] the question of B2B software’s sexiness became a meme on the Internet. We asked one of our clients, StackSafe to blog about it. […]

DEMO 08: Can B2B Enterprise Software Be Sexy? » The Buzz Bin Friday, January 11, 2008 at 7:32 AM PT