Salesforce.com was started with a simple premise: why couldn’t enterprise apps be as easy to use as buying a book on Amazon? In the last 14 years, this simple question has exploded into the trend we now call the “Consumerization of IT.”
But what if you have multiple apps? More and more, in the consumer world, the applications you use talk to each other. Your restaurant review on Yelp is automatically posted to Facebook. The Nike+ Running app tweets your latest run stats. Spotify shares what you’re listening to on Facebook and Twitter.
Contrast this with your business applications. Many of you reading this blog have experienced the pains of trying to connect business applications together. After investing significant time and money some of you probably gave up and bought a monolithic business applications suite, only to suffer through generic, subpar applications from legacy enterprise software vendors.
But there is a new age of business applications emerging - interconnected business applications centered on hubs. Salesforce.com pioneered this model and today has become the CRM hub, with many integrated third-party apps that extend its functionality. Similarly, Workday is the hub for human capital management, Intacct for GL, and Zuora for subscription lifecycle management.
The evolution to connected business applications is important and this evolution is disrupting the traditional business software market. Consumers of business applications today demand the same ease of use and ease of connectivity they experience with consumer applications. Business application vendors should consider a connected app strategy as critical to the success of their product. Here are just a few benefits that result from pursuing a connected app strategy:
Stronger customer relationships
The connected app model provides the foundation for something very exciting: The potential for creating stronger relationships with your customers. Salesforce.com created a strong partner application hub centered on the AppExchange. A number of business application vendors are following suit and fostering their own application hubs. Marketo is a good example of this. Marketo makes it easy for it’s customers to add their favorite apps to the Marketo hub application such as an analytics app, or event management app, data cleansing apps and more. Connecting apps to the Marketo hub enables customers to get more value out of the product and develop a sense of loyalty. These types of interactions help establish a valuable and longer lasting relationship between the company and its customers.
Increased customer reach
Business application vendors can reach a more diverse set of users in different markets, thanks to the connected app model. For example, DocuSign understands that its customers use various platforms to conduct their business and obtain signatures. So the company has developed apps for a variety of different hubs: Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook, Google Apps, as well as mobile signature apps for iOS and Android. In each case, the DocuSign app is connected to the hub, right out of the box. In addition, each app is priced and packaged differently, depending on the market it serves. As a result, DocuSign’s technology reaches customers it might not have had otherwise.
Reduced barriers to adoption
As usage of legacy desktop software declines, savvy enterprises are setting up their own app stores to make it easy for users to download the connected SaaS-based and mobile apps they need to be productive. This trend is one reason why IDC predicts SaaS and mobile app usage will increase 200 percent by 2015 [Source: http://www.citeworld.com/cloud/21423/why-enterprise-app-stores-are-threat-traditional-software-vendors]. Considering this trend, business application vendors that pursue a connected app strategy and make it easy for their apps to connect to other apps without requiring an army of consultants are most likely to be successfully adopted within an enterprise.
All these benefits have one thing in common. Each benefit is realized by pursuing a hub-centered, connected enterprise app strategy to develop deeper and more valuable relationships with as many customers and as possible, and accomplishing this while still delivering one unified customer experience.
This last point is key, because success in business today isn’t about delivering the best product at the best price and hoping customers return for more. Now and into the future, business success is about owning your customer relationships.
The next time your Yelp review flows to your Facebook timeline, think about how you might connect your enterprise apps in a similar manner. Look for ways to use connected apps to build direct access to your customers and deliver a variety of valuable goods and services in a way that’s transparent to them. The customer wins in this scenario. And so will you.