The end of enterprise software

It’s 2021 and enterprise software is dead. And everyone at Bilberrry couldn’t be happier. It’s a continuing trend we’ve built our business around. 

Back in the heyday of enterprise software — the late 70s and especially the 80s — software was purchased by the c-suite, usually the CTO, CIO, and the CEO. They usually opted for a “tried and true” enterprise solution like IBM, a big company with a big reputation and a big crew of wine-and-dine salespeople. The c-suite, backed by their business analysts and convinced by the sales pitch, felt safe in making that call: “No one ever got fired for picking IBM.” Their decision was co-signed by the behemoth of consensus. So many people use it, it can’t be that bad.

This also meant that the people who were going to be using the software the most weren’t in the decision loop. What they wanted or needed out of the software wasn’t taken into account, and if the software was clunky to use or didn’t exactly fit their needs, the long-term contracts and large upfront fees meant there wasn’t really any way to change it. Thankfully, that’s not the world we’re in today

A lot has changed. The biggest change of all is our expectations: that software should serve our needs exactly, and shouldn’t be prohibitively expensive. We love these changes. Here’s how we got here, and why things are never going back. 

4 things that killed enterprise software

1. Everyone buys software

For decades, most individual consumers didn’t have experience buying software. Today, most 9 year olds do. We’ve all used an app store, have all bought and installed a piece of software, probably without much effort. And software isn’t just for the office anymore. We’re watching Netflix, doing our taxes, booking vacations, setting up doctor’s appointments, making dinner reservations. 

Plus, with the rise of freelance and remote work, a lot of us are our own IT departments and we carry that knowledge and experience over when we join a team full time. It’s painful to lose access to the best software — so most employees simply won’t. Instead they’ll ask for (demand, if necessary) access to the better tool. Those software asks are all the more likely to get approved, too. Software is a lot less expensive, and it’s easier to access. 

2. There are more tools — and we want to use them all 

A combination of the cloud, SaaS model, and the super-light implementation lift of web apps means it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to develop and bring a software to market. This lower barrier for entry has allowed smaller software teams to enter the market alongside enterprise behemoths — and these new, more-nimble teams aren’t limited to a one-size-fits-most model. In fact, the more niche and specific they can get, the better. Narrow use cases have become huge lines of business. Take Veeva, for example, the SaaS CRM and CMS in the life sciences vertical that launched and now has a market cap of $40B. (In fact, one of the things we ask clients interested in building custom software is just that: Could you also sell this as a product?) 

The result: a lot more tools, many of them single-use, that we now combine into our own suite of tools. The single sign-in software company, Okta, reported that in 2020 the average number of apps per user was 88 and 10% of their 10,000 users signed into more than 200 apps. That’s wild. Wilder still: even when businesses buy a software suite, 78% of them don’t limit themselves — they buy more than one best-in-class product. They’re using Microsoft365 and GSuite, Slack, or Zoom. We don’t have to choose, so we don’t. 

3. It’s easy to switch

Since software, especially cloud-native web apps, are easy to purchase, install, and try, teams are much more willing to give something a go and move on if they don’t like it. Just like there’s a lower barrier to enter the market, there’s an even lower barrier for users to exit — simply cancel your monthly subscriptions. 

The exact opposite used to be true. Signing that IBM contract started the process of an on-site installation of hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. Switching meant not just cancelling the contract, but pulling that hardware out, and paying a different company another six figures to come and install their hardware. 

4. Software adoption happens on the individual and team level

Of course, some companies still use annual or multi-year contracts and have very strict policies on the software employees can install on their work computers. We’re simply not trending that direction anymore. 

In the same way that suits and loafers have been supplanted by hoodies and sneakers, a lot of software decisions now happen on the team level. Today, many teams build their own suites of tools that work for them. Maybe the Sales team starts to use a chat app, or a small project group tries a new task tracker tool. Word gets around that they love it and other teams give it a try. They love it, too — it does exactly what they need — so they adopt it. Company-wide adoption now generally occurs once there’s a tipping point of internal users, not a directive from senior leadership. 

Our POV: We all expect more from our software 

Today, the most important voices in software procurement are teams and individuals who will be using it. They want it to work and work well — in fact, work exactly how they’d like it to. The good news: the product is probably available. (If not, we’ll help you build it.)