As a product manager, I often go and see my customers to present the product roadmap or statement of direction so they have a good idea of what we are concentrating on in the future. A short while ago, I noticed a distinct difference in the reaction from certain customers when I talked about the subject of cloud. It became fairly obvious after a while as to why there was such a difference. The customers who had our software on-premise basically switched off at this point with a belief that what I was talking about didn’t affect them. The fact is that it does affect them. It affects everyone.
Cloud has led to a change in expectations in how business software should look and feel. Software applications can no longer just be functional for business users. The basics of what is required have changed.
They have to look good and be easy to use. People are so used to using well designed web pages and cloud based applications that they don’t even think about it anymore. It’s now very noticeable when applications don’t meet these standards. Business applications for business users shouldn’t be any different.
They have to provide a level of collaboration as standard. Social media has done many things to our lives and we can all debate whether it is a good or bad thing. But one thing that can’t be debated is that is has had a lasting effect on applications. The ability to talk to other users, ask questions, or at least receive notifications is just something that is expected. Business people like to talk to other business people and we’ve all gotten used to electronic devices to do it.
They have to provide a level of self-help. People have gotten used to the idea of helping themselves with software. This has evolved from user guides and manuals to more in-app help. But, this also means access to forums or Wikis and community sites to get assistance and guidance from other users. The idea of calling up a help desk to ask how to type questions is becoming less common and less preferable to an application or platform that allows users to help themselves.
Expectations of IT
Cloud has also led to business users having higher expectations around how long it should take to get up and running using a new application. More traditional methods of going through a sales and procurement cycle, raising internal purchase orders and engaging project teams to get a piece of software installed seem very outdated. There are good reasons for a lot of these internal processes but they seem much more fitting when talking about enterprise level platform changes rather than business applications to solve a specific problem. These core applications are the kind that need to remain in the hands of a centralized IT team. Where cloud is really making a difference is around the edge applications that should really be owned by and driven by the business.
Often, business users just don’t have time to wait that long for a new application and so they will often try to source them without IT, i.e. via the Cloud. But even where these have been kept in-house or on-premise, the business expectations of the level of support from IT have increased. There are expectations for these applications to be upgraded often and for issues to be resolved quickly. The level of performance needs to be managed and it needs to be easy to expand the user base.
The cloud makes it easy for software providers to perform the necessary upgrades and patches on a frequent basis while being able to automate a lot of the performance management as user base grows. Any support teams can get direct access to the data, rather than having to send someone on site or go back and forth with customers’ IT teams. There is effective cost saving around these points, both by not needing IT to intervene but also around the time saved. Internal IT teams have to provide a service that meets these expectations for the business.
Given this general rise in the levels of expectations around how business applications should behave and should be supported means that it doesn’t take a genius to predict that more and more organizations are going to look to the cloud for solutions. It has obvious benefits that make it difficult for an on-premise approach to keep up with. The reluctance that is seen in a move to the cloud is now much more likely to be for regulatory, compliance, or legal reasons as opposed to capability. Highly regulated industries such as Financial Services or Life Sciences will have more hoops to jump through than others, but this does not mean that the cloud is not affecting the way in which business users think about software.
I have adjusted the way in which I present our future direction of the product when talking about cloud to mention these points. I don’t get blank stares or shaking heads anymore which is a good start. It’s clear that cloud has had a massive impact on the way in which we all expect software to behave and be delivered. It is rightly making us more impatient and is driving us to expect more from business applications. It will continue to shape the development and provision of business solutions and that is why it is key to make sure that cloud is at the forefront of business applications’ development roadmap going forward.
At TIBCO, we are focussed on creating business applications that address the the edge of the business while exceeding the various expectations from a cloud application. One of these applications is TIBCO Nimbus Maps, which allows business experts to easily map out processes and collaborate with stakeholders with an easy-to-use interface. If you want to simplify some of your day-to-day operations and collaborate with others on your team, try TIBCO Nimbus Maps for free.