Enterprise Software Gets a Face-Lift

Enterprise software, look out. The hard-to-install, hard-to-use software of the past is quickly becoming a dinosaur. "The way that consumers use software is bleeding into the enterprise," says Paul Holland, general partner at Foundation Capital, a venture capital company. That means that more companies will be choosing on-demand software akin to Salesforce.com for nonstrategic tasks. It also means that users will expect business applications to be as easy as the ones they use at home.

"In the past, enterprise software was hard to use and people got discouraged," Holland says. "Users are driving the trend—they are the new heroes of the organization."

Just ask Roger Hoffman, director of technical service management at car research site Edmunds.com. Employees at Edmunds.com have been using an on-demand application called Service-now since February to log incidents, changes or problems with the production environment. Service-now was inspired by business-to-consumer software such as home banking applications, Google and Amazon.com. Hoffman says he is pleased so far and that users are happy with the easy-to-use interface.

Hoffman adds that users are increasingly looking for simple applications and attractive interfaces that mimic the software they use at home. Software vendors are taking note, following the lead of such vendors as Rearden Commerce, which enables customers to order business services online. The trend is even drifting into supply chain applications. The startup Ketera Technologies offers an on-demand procurement application that promises companies it will "consumerize" purchasing and make ordering supplies as easy as ordering something from Amazon.com.

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