Open Thread: What Can Enterprise Software Developers Learn from Consumer Apps?

In recent years, it seems that innovation in traditional “enterprise” collaboration tools has stagnated, while apps developed for the consumer/ SMB market are innovating at breakneck pace. As a result, we’re seeing more and more of those consumer tools finding their way into the workplace. Over on GigaOM Pro (subscription required), my latest Long View takes a look at some of the lessons that vendors of enterprise apps could learn from the vibrant and innovative consumer web apps market. Here’s a quick rundown of my five key takeaways:

  • Foster innovation through third parties. ??Innovation doesn’t have to come solely from within a company. By having open and documented APIs, a vendor can encourage third parties to build upon and enhance their products.
  • Release early; iterate often. The release cycles of traditional enterprise tools are too drawn out, which means that they’re not as nimble and able to respond to new techniques and technology.
  • Freemium works well. The freemium model is good, because it allows businesses to “try before they buy,” allowing them to see whether the tool will fit into their workflow before committing to the cost. It’s also useful for the vendor, as it helps to get their tool exposed to an audience who may not previously have considered it.
  • Ease of use matters. Some enterprise apps could be described as, well, a bit clunky, often requiring training to use. On the other hand, the consumer space is extremely competitive, and as a result, successful apps tend to be very well designed, with a great deal of care paid to making them usable.
  • Use social features to encourage adoption. Users can be resistant to fitting new tools or features into their workflow. By taking cues from the social features found in apps like Facebook, developers can encourage users to embrace new applications.

Those are the points I make in my GigaOM Pro article, but I’m curious to hear what you think: What could the developers of traditional “enterprise” software learn from the apps in the consumer/SMB space?

Photo courtesy Flickr user iboy_daniel, licensed under CC 2.0