Ray Lane’s future of enterprise software

Here’s the third (and hopefully final) in my series on interesting podcasts. This one comes from the folks at IT Conversations. It is a recorded presentation by Ray Lane from the Software 2006 Conference discussing the shifting landscape of the software industry. (Ray’s slides are here.) Ray is the former president of Oracle and current partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins.

About 26 minutes in, he gets to the part that intrigued me. He provides a description of what it is going to take to develop the successful and valuable enterprise software of the future. His thoughts resonated with ideas we’ve had about the weakness of existing business intelligence solutions and what we’d do to fix it. Here is my favorite quote:

Enterprise software industry made one big, huge mistake in the late nineties. It focused on buyers and forgot the users. [They need to ask] How are the users really using the software?

When it comes to new software opportunities, he recommends that new entrants:

1. Target the white space. "Find the white space, the open space, the stuff that hasn’t been done. Don’t try to do it better than Oracle, Microsoft, SAP. Enterprise software hasn’t done everything. There is still a lot of manual decision making, a lot of manual effort, a lot of cost that goes in."

2. Low effort improvement. "Improve what they have today but do it low effort." He mentioned an example of an innovative company that could install its software in a week.

3. Free now, pay later. "Free so i can try it and actually see the value very quickly, then pay for it later. Trust that the customer will see enough value that they will pay for it later."

4. Generate individual value. "We make different technology decisions at home that at work. Why? because there is something that says: the enterprise is bigger than us. Take the [Amazon.com, Google] mindset into the enterprise."

I’d add one more item to his list:

5. Solve specific problems. Too often, enterprise software is built to be comprehensive and generic so it can marginally solve any problem. Better to flexible and modular to allow rapid implementations that target the biggest pain points or opportunities for individual client situations.