Archive for the ‘Cloud’ category

Three Rules for Building Highly Usable Enterprise SaaS Solutions

August 30, 2013

Although SaaS companies like Netsuite and Salesforce.com have been around awhile, the market is still in the early stages of delivering software as a service to enterprises. There are two schools of thought on this.

One common mindset is that enterprise IT organizations will eventually have to move in the direction of SaaS as users dictate how software gets consumed.

Another view is that consumer-originated SaaS companies have the user interface down, but don’t understand the enterprise. And that large enterprises will never accept this model.

I believe reality is somewhere in between. The challenge will be giving enterprise users consumer-grade ease of use with enterprise-grade security and compliance.

At Syncplicity we have formulated three ways vendors can successfully offer highly usable—in fact beautiful—applications for the enterprise with zero compromise.

Rule #1 – Build Beautiful and Frictionless Applications

Everyone knows it’s important to delight the user. When you build a great app, user engagement will be high and measurable.

At Syncplicity, these are our guiding principles for driving usage through design:

  • Use modern UI paradigms. Users expect apps to look sharp and modern. Incorporate best-in-class design: clean and simple fonts, clever scrolling, and motion. Your apps will go viral.
  • Inherent personality of the OS. Users adopt different devices because they love the UI. They aren’t interested in a generic or atypical experience.
  • Eliminate extra steps. Our goal is for users to take “no extra steps” to get the job done with our service. We adapt to the way they work rather than forcing artificial change.
  • Obsess over use cases. Clearly define specific use cases before designing new features. Ask questions about who is using the app, under what conditions, and what they are trying to accomplish. If the feature doesn’t align, it shouldn’t make it into the app.
  • De-featuring is a feature. Offering too many features actually discourages usage. Monitoring tools assess what features are being used. Eliminate the rest.

Rule #2 – Don’t compromise security

The best enterprise apps provide security and compliance without over-burdening the user. Sometimes, they can even enhance the experience.

The Syncplicity approach:

  • Protection can be seamless. Single Sign On is an easy way to enhance security while accommodating users. Try to leverage customers’ existing security infrastructure rather than replicate it.
  • Set it and forget it. Using centralized policies offers security and compliance without requiring users or IT to take extra steps. We recommend setting a policy for external folder sharing rather than asking admins to set up secure workspaces.
  • Policy-driven compliance. Policy-driven approaches to data location ensure compliance without impacting user experience.
  • Protect by enabling (and monitoring). When users bring their own device to work, data is at risk, often without IT’s knowledge. Controls and meaningful and automatic reporting let IT manage the unmanageable.
  • Hands off the data. One of the biggest inhibitors to cloud adoption: questions about who owns, or has access to, customer data. SaaS vendors need to clearly state that they don’t own customer data and can’t use or even see customer data.
  • Trust but verify. It is critical for SaaS vendors to go through the appropriate certification process to make customers comfortable with their selection.

Rule #3 – If it doesn’t get deployed (properly), it won’t get used

The proliferation of consumer tools in the enterprise has convinced some in IT that they don’t need to focus on deployment anymore. That may be true at the individual, team, or even departmental level. But enterprise vendors need to focus on “deployment at scale” as much as on user features. Here are our recommendations:

  • Make deployment easier. Then users can get started right away. For IT, this ranges from making it easy to provision and pre-configure user accounts to working with existing infrastructure such as authentication and storage.
  • Not all users are alike. Different groups require different configurations and policies. Highly usable enterprise apps need to accommodate all without creating a burden on the user or IT.
  • There’s no such thing as “no training needed.” No matter how simple the app, when deployed at scale, guidance is needed. Be prepared to offer users best practices to drive adoption.
  • Monitor and adjust. It’s important to give users (and IT) the tools they need to monitor and ultimately optimize and promote proper system usage.

The age of delivering consumer-grade experiences within enterprise-grade apps is a relatively new phenomenon, and I expect these rules will keep evolving. But the trend is here to stay. The way we design, build, and deploy enterprise apps has been permanently, and positively, transformed forever. And that’s a great thing for users, IT, and vendors alike!

Productivity and Trust, No Longer Mutually Exclusive

June 18, 2012

In the Post-PC era, organizations are increasing facing the pressure to choose between serving the needs of the user to be productive, versus IT’s need to ensure overall safety of information. Productivity and safety have fundamentally been at odds for a very long time.  However, if organizations are able to achieve the right balance of catering to the needs of the user and IT, great transformations occur.  These transformations occur not only in business and IT, but also in individuals to drive great outcomes.

Additionally, user work patterns and expectations are changing very dramatically.  Today’s user expects instant access to any information regardless of where they are, or which device they are using.  They also have little tolerance for poor user experiences.  They want to be able to share the information with others within and across firewalls.  Organizations are becoming artificial boundaries.

Lastly, it is far too expensive for IT to move content from different repositories into yet another centralized repository when a new way to work comes about via a technology innovation.  Instead, information is expected to have a distributed characteristic, but access patterns, governance, management and policy enforcement should evolve based on new work patterns.

The question we as a business community are faced with is whether we should accept the imperfect world where such an artificial choice is forced upon us, or reject the status quo of mutual exclusivity between two very significant necessities for a business to be successful.  When we look closer at the key defining traits important for productivity and safety in a trusted enterprise, a few aspects are amplified.  Let’s consider each of the two dimensions more carefully.

Productivity for the user typically considers aspects such as:

  1. Mobility:  Ensure users have freedom to choose their devices, and access the right information from anywhere, at any time on any device.
  2. Delighting The New User:   Deliver a user experience that is completely intuitive, frictionless, efficient and just works the way one would expect it to!
  3. Ensuring Collaboration and Transparency Across Boundaries:  Whether it be geographical boundaries, device boundaries, infrastructure boundaries or organizational boundaries, people should have the option of full transparency and engagement to get their job done in the most effective ways.
  4. Matching the Home Computing Experience in the Workplace:  The most common question that gets asked by users is why is it so much easier for them to get stuff done at home versus getting work done in the workplace.  This includes simple and rapid provisioning  of technology that is as effortless as using Facebook
  5. Policy Automation:  Conventional wisdom has taught us that security, governance, compliance, rights management, etc. are restrictions that hamper user experience.  However, if implemented correctly, user experience can be materially enhanced by effective implementation of policy (e.g. don’t allow a sales person to open an older version of the price sheet by implementing an information rights management)

On the other hand, a trusted enterprise worries about capabilities such as:

  1. Security:  It isn’t just who has access to what information, but also having access to the right information at the right location in the right context.
  2. Governance and Compliance:  It isn’t just keeping your organization secure, but also ensuring the right governance and compliance of the information regardless of where the information lives.  Policy must follow content rather than being tied to a physical repository.
  3. Control: Sensitive and business critical information should be owned by corporations, not individuals.  If a device is lost, information on that device must be controlled by the corporation.  If a user decides to pursue other career options they should not be able to walk away with company sensitive information.
  4. Manageability:  IT should be able to make it easier for provisioning users, accounts, and customer experiences.
  5. Rights Management:  When information is shared outside corporate boundaries, organizations sharing the information shouldn’t lose control over the information.  Furthermore, at any point in time, information shared with others outside the organization should have the ability to disable information based on a set of criteria.

As we move into the new world where the user has taken control while IT is required to `keep the organization safe, compliant and secure, a new breed of solutions will emerge.  These will be solutions that deliver superior user experiences while not ignoring the risk, safety, compliance and manageability aspects that IT so rightfully cares about.  This will be a race where many will claim that they cater to this duality of needs, but only a few will be able to deliver on this promise at scale to enterprises.  The challenge is harder than it sounds, but results are far greater than they seem on the surface.  This is truly the new era of the content and collaboration market.  Like any discontinuous innovation, the success of this will be over-estimated in the short-term but grossly under-estimated in the long term.  The intersection where productivity meets trust will truly be a sea change for the content and collaboration work patterns within the enterprise.  Finally, organizations won’t be forced to make a choice between two very important needs of a business – keep my users productive while keeping my organization safe.

3 Critical Areas to be an Enterprise Worthy Software Company

April 19, 2012

Megatrends like Social, Big Data, Cloud and mobile are driving fundamental shifts in the business in this Post PC era.  One of those shifts is around the consumerization of IT where the user is in control of the devices and the applications they use to be more productive.  User experience is of paramount importance and the message is clear.  Users will not put up with complex user interfaces and find alternatives to enhance productivity by self-provisioning apps in the cloud.  As I’ve said before, a software company cannot be successful unless they minimize friction in the user experience.  The user gene must be developed in every software organization.

However, IT still remains a critical constituency within an organization.  Many that started from the consumer side of the house like Google have had some hiccups in catering to the CIO.  Three key areas must be evaluated closely when a software vendor claims to serve the enterprise.  They are around how a software company provides support for the enterprise, how a software company builds products for the user, but keeping in mind enterprise requirements, and how a software company enables an ecosystem of services, education and training for an enterprise.  What I thought would be valuable is for some of the leaders in EMC to discuss how they think of these very serious enterprise needs.  I’ve asked Mike Montoya, our head of support, Rohit Ghai, our head of products, and John O’Melia, our head of services to impart some wisdom on each of these areas on what it takes to effectively serve an enterprise while still ensuring that the user is who the software is designed for.

Hope you enjoy the 3 blogs that each of these very talented individuals have been kind enough to contribute to my blog.

Cloud, Big Data, and Case Management: Transforming Business to a Predictive Enterprise

April 9, 2012

“A corporation is a living organism; it has to continue to shed its skin. Methods have to change. Focus has to change. Values have to change. The sum total of those changes is transformation.” – Andy Grove

I was recently interviewed by Tom Koulopoulos, President of the Delphi Group, during the Adaptive Case Management Virtual Summit 2012 (or ACM Live) on the major forces that are shaping business today and how case management and complementary technologies can help enterprises manage this change. The replay of this interview and demo is available here. I encourage you to check it out.

There’s little debate that social, mobile, cloud, and big data are changing our lives in ways we haven’t even imagined, and (more…)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,176 other followers

%d bloggers like this: