Archive for the ‘Hoping for a Discussion’ category

Three Rules for Building Highly Usable Enterprise SaaS Solutions

August 30, 2013

Although SaaS companies like Netsuite and 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!

Social Content Governance: Who Provides It? How should it be Provided?

May 13, 2010

The Enterprise Content Management (ECM) industry has gone through significant transformations over the course of the past decade.  A seminal event that got ECM on the mainstream map was the Enron debacle a few years ago, followed by Sarbanes Oxley, followed by Federal Rules of Civil Procedure changes that occurred in late 2008. My point is that a series of events increased the need for better information governance, and the logical suppliers were those that provided information management capabilities using their ECM technologies. 

It can be argued right now that information governance as a market might even be a larger addressable market than the ECM market over the next few years, largely because of increased regulation and significant exposure to organizations from mismanagement and poor governance of information. 

But I think there is a larger problem that needs to be solved by these information governance initiatives: the need for governance of the social content  is starting to be generated within organizations at a very rapid pace. Wikis, ad hoc collaborative content, microblogs, and blogs like these typically don’t have good governance policies enforced around them. Those suppliers that provide solutions to address this problem will find themselves in high demand. Those that don’t effectively position themselves for it will be at a great disadvantage due to the rapid growth of social business content. 

Coming up with effective solutions won’t be easy, however. If usability and governance aren’t completely balanced, enforcement will be nearly impossible to achieve. Given the popularity and proliferation of cloud-based models in social computing, it might be an ideal time for the ECM vendors to bring about information governance capabilities as a cloud service.  Furthermore, it will be imperative for (more…)

Why Your Social Computing Strategy Matters to Your eDiscovery Project

March 18, 2010

Organizations are quickly realizing the need to build a social strategy for their business.  This includes exploring how Facebook and Twitter-like functionality can be brought to the enterprise.

The sense of urgency for developing such a social strategy has been primarily driven by the consumer experience of individuals.  When consumers are far more productive at home than at work, they start to demand similar tools and capabilities with which they can interact with each other even at work.  And if they don’t’ get those capabilities at work, they start using tools available to them at home for work use.

While this is getting to be an increasingly accepted concept, what organizations at large haven’t done a particularly good job in is (more…)

8 Essentials to Consider for Social Computing and Collaboration in Business

March 18, 2010

2009 was the year for social services taking off for consumers.  2010 seems like the year where momentum is rampantly building for social services and software use in business.

However, risk exposure for organizations actually being successful with social computing and collaboration (SC&C) can’t be ignored.  Here are some factors that can contribute to an increased probability of success for organizations:

1. Focus on Adoption: If Warren Buffett were to simplify SC&C, he would probably say something like: Rule #1, Focus on Adoption.  Rule #2, Don’t forget Rule #1.  If there is a single criterion to bet on for the success of social computing, it should be to encourage adoption.  This is a viral phenomenon, and that is the best part of it.  Disproportionately focus effort on adoption acceleration!!

2. Ensure a Very Iterative Deployment Model: One way to ensure failure in social computing and collaboration is to treat it like an ERP project.  This cannot be an 18 month long project. It must have short planning, execution and iteration cycles with a maniacal focus on measurement of behavior, trends and usage patterns.

3. Recognition of the “Power Law of Participation”: 50% of content on Wikipedia is contributed by approximately 0.5% of the user base.  This participatory variability is a fascinating dynamic.  And I don’t deserve credit for the concept.  Ross Mayfield, founder of Socialtext was the first to coin the term “Power Law of Participation”.  (more…)

Will the App Store for Business Revolutionalize the Enterprise Software Distribution Model

March 8, 2010

Enterprise software has always been a high gross margin business due to the repeatable nature of software that vendors write once, and sell many times.

But for those of us who are familiar with enterprise software vendors as well as large corporations who buy such software, we are all far too aware of the long and expensive sales cycles for both the supplier (software company) and the buyer (corporations using software).

Typically, most margin erosion for software companies happens in the sales and marketing expense. Yes, engineering is a high cost, but typically gross margins can tend to be between 75% to almost 90% for the good companies once a certain amount of volume and scale is reached. But direct sales especially is a low scale business.

So why do corporations who buy software care? Well, if 30 to 40 cents of a dollar is spent by a software company (more…)

The Myth of Google being a “One Trick Pony”

March 5, 2010

I just saw a Post that talks about Google launching it’s Android Operating System’s latest version 2.1 on older devices like the Sidekick.

Here is what is fascinating about this discussion. While Google’s revenues are largely advertising based, unlike other firms that have experienced such hyper growth who typically saturate a market, Google continues to have plenty of runway in growing their ad revenues. The percent of ad revenues that Google has is still fairly low.

In fact, one could foreseeably see Google having a single search based revenue stream comprising 80 to 90% of their revenues while maintaining aggressive growth rates.

Why does this matter to consumers? And to business for that matter? (more…)

Doculabs’ Whitepaper on Enterprise Social Computing and Collaboration

February 9, 2010

I am very happy to announce Doculabs’ latest whitepaper that was released earlier today on Social Computing and Collaboration (SC&C) within the enterprise and beyond. If you are interested in receiving your copy of the whitepaper, feel free to email me at

These are very exciting times that we live in. We are witnessing one of the most profound cultural and behavioral transformations of our time, where people are more and more at ease in working transparently and collaboratively with the masses. For example, consider that the Economist had a special report on Social Networking in the issue dated Jan 20-Feb 5, 2010. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook put it best referring to the behavioral shift due to social networking as “probably the greatest transformative force in our generation, absent a major war”.

Please feel free to email me at for your copy of the whitepaper. Many thanks for your interest and over the next few weeks I will be blogging about the key scenarios within enterprises that stand to benefit the most from social computing and collaboration. Look forward to hearing everyone’s thoughts on these discussions so that we can collectively better understand and define the impact and associated opportunity of social computing and collaboration for the enterprise and beyond.


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