'Lovable' was about the last word you would ever expect to use when describing enterprise software.
The industry used to be dominated by large muscular corporations. They had complete control of both their brands and their distribution. They had massive amounts of cash to spend on sales and marketing. They built franchises from which is was very difficult to escape. And they were selling to a central IT department who worried more about risk and functionality than what it was actually like to use the product. The term UX didn't even exist. Not any more.
We are well and truly in the age of the lovable product in the enterprise. This is a profound shift and I believe it has been driven by the convergence of a number of factors as follows:
* Consumarization of IT
The tech that we use and love at home is now being used in the office or is driving very different expectations in the products that we use to do our work.
* De-centralization of decision making
No longer is a central IT department carrying the budget and making the decisions on behalf of the entire organization. Tech has become increasingly important to every department in the company and this is empowering teams to take more control over the products they use.
* Mobile devices
Mobile devices with smaller screens controlled by our touch mean that we now have a closer emotional bond to the applications we are using. And the smaller screen places a greater premium on simple, intuitive design.
Enterprise software used to be about a big upfront investment and a long term commmitment to both the software and the platform. Most of the tools we now use at work are platform agnostic and you can try for free or sign up on a monthly basis. In this way business users can easily change their products when they don't live up to ever increasing expectations.
* The customer is in charge
Through sheer marketing muscle enterprise software companies used to be able to control their 'truth.' These days the user is in control. We can voice our dissatisfaction and review products to vast audiences through an ever growing array of channels.
* Viral growth
Most of the most successful enterprise SaaS companies have ben propelled by viral growth. This is usually driven 'bottom up' through a free or low cost version of the product used by a few rogue users in an organization. It then ripples out across the organization and into others in the same way. Only products that people love will take advantage of this.
Any one of these drivers are significant in themselves. When you combine them together you start to understand how such a dramatic shift from the muscular to the lovable could have happened to quickly in enterprise software.
And it's not just what the product does but how easy it is to use and how it makes us feel that's important. The overall user experience has become even more important that the functionality.
I believe that this is a trend that will run and run. And a trend that any B2B start-up needs to embrace if they are to be successful and take advantage of this fast changing environment.