Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Good design and the top line

Typically, technology companies, especially those that sell to the enterprise, have not invested heavily in design. The most compelling and usable products today are consumer-oriented - products like the iPhone and Google, as great design directly translates to purchases and clicks.

In the enterprise, often the end-user isn't the buyer, and usability and design ends up taking a back seat in the purchasing decision to features and price. So companies that sell to the enterprise have traditionally found it hard to make the link between usability and the top line. They struggle to make the ROI link, and at best, can only make weak links between investing in usability and reducing support costs.

If you are building enterprise products, you need to read this article: The Mac in the Gray Flannel Suit. CIOs are being bombarded by workers who want Macs. Why? Because consumers are infatuated with iPhones, iPods, and Macs, and they want to use them at work too. Consider: Apple hardly has a corporate sales force. It's a struggle to get an Apple account rep. That's a dream situation for most technology companies.

What about software? Ask a sales team about their CRM system - 9 out of 10 will tell you they hate it, and reluctantly use it because it's been dictated from up high. Is it any wonder that Salesforce.com is growing so fast? They've made a usable application that makes it easy for small teams to sign-up and start using it. When Salesforce.com started, many were skeptical (and some still are) that they could penetrate Fortune 1000 sales teams. Take a look at Salesforce.com's press releases and you'll find many recognizable names. The SaaS model is empowering the end-user, and making it easier for end-users to discover and try products, and that's making it easier for companies who understand good design to leapfrog their traditional competitors.

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