2015 will be a year of setting priorities for business software users and vendors alike. At a time of digital reimagining in the workplace, there is much to do to keep the next generation of workers and customers happy. Industries are being challenged by disruptive new business models so it's imperative they make the right technological decisions.
Everyone is focused on building a business for the digital cloud era. Organisations want to use emerging IT delivery models to safely innovate and drive business efficiencies, whilst making the most of the huge investment already made in their enterprise backbones. Cloud is the future and 'cloud your way' will be the theme over the next few years.
Everything will focus initially on value generating, customer-focused initiatives, where quick tangible benefits can be achieved from new technologies like social, mobile and analytics. Building effective communities that deliver valuable customer service in the long-term is vital.
Given this shift in thinking, here are my top five priorities that I believe will affect the business software industry in 2015.
People over products
New technology has the power to strengthen the services industries, and free up people to focus on customer service and engagement, instead of spending time inputting data into difficult to use systems. 2015 will see more companies rethinking their customer experience and the systems they use to support their people to deliver that experience.
New technologies and a new digital mind-set make this new kind of service focus not only possible, but essential, and has put customer service at the front of the queue when it comes to successful business, no matter what your business.
Mobile over desktop
For years business software has struggled to keep up with our love of mobile and the proliferation of mobile use for business. Most vendors have already released mobile versions of their systems to some extent. However, a superior mobile experience, particularly in complex areas like ERP, requires more than making the software compatible for the dominant mobile operating systems.
The new generation of mobile ERP requires the mobile-first thinking that consumer app builders have. These apps are linked to the core system and designed for specific tasks, like expenses, reporting and time registration. 2015 will be a year of mobile developments in business software.
Customer over service provider
Traditionally business software has been a market of long-term upfront investments. Companies purchased a new ERP system and invested millions of dollars for multiple year deployments and became so entwined with their software that switching became almost impossible.
Digital technologies and mind-sets have changed all this. Subscription pricing and simple switching means the customer is king and their long-term success is key to a vendor's long-term success. It's a new world of customer feedback too. Software vendors have a new responsibility – the power is no longer in their hands but in the hands of the customer. In 2015 we'll see more businesses setting up customer success teams with this in mind.
Users over consultants
In a world in which change is the only constant, rigid systems have the power to stop organisations from changing with it. The key to success in the 21st century is to be flexible (both adapting to new business models and scaling up or down as required). This will be an important consideration for software purchasers in 2015.
Traditionally business software users have become accustomed to systems that can only be altered with the external help of a consultant or developer. The new reality in 2015 will be that businesses wish to switch from one vendor to the other in a matter of days; the ability to make changes to the system without external assistance is a key competitive advantage.
Experience over functionality
Business software users have a seamless, easy and convenient digital life in their private lives delivered through smartphones, cloud storage and social media. As this mind-set and technology advancements proliferate, our tolerance for clunky, difficult to use systems at work is diminishing.
The consumer workplace requires social collaboration, mobile devices, role-based intelligence and cloud computing to be brought together and this is where organisations will focus attention over the next few years. Customer experience will start to trump breadth of functionality as the key software priority until enterprise systems begin to catch up with consumer applications.
- Helen Sutton is the Managing Director in the UK and Ireland for UNIT4 Business Software