Dec 05, 2012

The New World of Software Design: The User is King

December 5, 2012 - User adoption has always been the largest driver of return on a software investment. For too many years though, users of corporate applications just took what they were given. There wasn’t much of a choice, if any, and there were no real comparative benchmarks or thresholds. As a result, manufacturers of corporate applications got away with a lot.

Not any more. Over the last decade consumer software applications have overtaken corporate software in affordability, ease of use, and sophistication. Applications like Skype, eBay, Facebook, Apple iBooks, Netflix, and Google Applications allow home users to manage their relationships and interact with their friends, neighbors, banks and vendors. These users understand the instant provisioning and relative affordability of calling over IP.  They can instantly sort through a global marketplace of billions of individual items to locate the specific one they want to bid on. They can manage personal finances spread across multiple institutions and disparate accounts. And they can access inexpensive, fairly sophisticated and robust applications on their iPhones.

Then they wake up and come to work, where simple projects run into millions of dollars in operational expense, projects can take months to be implemented, and the application experience isn’t remotely close to the usability and performance they are used to. What’s more, a new generation is about to come into the workforce, one that has never known the computer to be defined by the box it sits in. They think of a computer as an amorphous global worldwide infrastructure that they tap into at will, whether to play highly sophisticated electronic games across the world or locate their friends across town. This generation will have no use for the performance, usability and affordability norms that are commonplace in corporate applications today.

Twenty years ago I started my career with a top computer manufacturer as product manager for their Unix-based server. I remember a sales call with the CIO of a large financial institution who told me he couldn’t even consider my product, as there would be a run on the bank if customers thought their money was being managed by anything other than a mainframe. Thankfully, just at that time performance and availability of intelligence on client computers was exploding. That sparked the large scale movement to client server computing – changing forever the computing landscape of the industry. We ended up building a multi-billion dollar Unix-server business helping customers find alternatives to mainframes.

Similarly, a large dislocation is afoot and will forever change the corporate software world. It’s being driven by the discontinuity in application experience and it will ultimately break the lock-in of on-premise corporate application software. In software, user experience drives user adoption; without high user adoption, most software projects end up short of their promised returns. Forward thinking software companies now see this and are not willing to stand at the bottom of the Niagara Falls, just pushing water off their heads. Leading developers are actively embracing the massive evolution in the computing experiences of the workforce. Best–in-class programs are being designed after inspecting new approaches for broader applicability. New code is designed to the user experience requirements of this new reality in the corporate workforce. The user, not necessarily the buyer, is now king.

About the author

Sanjay Srivastava

Sanjay Srivastava

Chief Digital Officer

Sanjay Srivastava is Chief Digital Officer, where he runs Genpact’s growing Digital business, overseeing the Genpact Cora platform and all Digital products and services.