Let’s face it. Enterprise applications and solutions can be a bit of an eye sore. Solving complex problems requires three layers. The backend, where the engine sits and hides complexity, the front end where the user sees a beautiful chassis, and in between there is a steering wheel, gas pedal and brake which represent the middle layers. The middle layers translate actions by the user to demand on the wheels and the engine. To build solutions for complex consumer issues requires depth, stamina, time and patience. The middle layer is key and requires people who know all three layers. To this effect, many companies shy away from solving those complex problems and opt for simpler, quicker ways to monetize solutions.
In a 2013 presentation by Creative Good, it was found that providing a better user experience for your customers will increase the number of purchasers by 40% and increase order size by 10%. So why wouldn’t applications want to do their best to be visually appealing? The answer is a no-brainer. It is time for the consumer applications and the enterprise applications to start dating, so to speak, even if they need to speak through an interpreter. We need more innovators, entrepreneurs, and VC’s to drive ‘visually appealing technology’ both on the enterprise and consumer side, or technology will continue to be something many non-tech people are intimidated by and won’t try to figure out. Here’s where the problems are:
- Enterprise software is complex. It is not user friendly and is focused on solving complex and intricate issues that require weaving multiple functions to act as one whole unit. Companies like Salesforce.com, SAP, and Oracle have been at this for many years and for those of us who come from that world, complexity is normal and we deal with it grudgingly. However, designers of those applications are not very concerned with making the user experience easy and simple because the assumption is that “you can train them.’ The worst part of the process is that an enterprise user has no choice once his/her company has bought the software. When procurement offices buy software, they don’t often consider the user experience to be an important factor. Enterprise software companies know that, and thus, don’t give it too much attention.
- Consumer software puts the user at the center of it all, because consumers have choices. It is an entirely different game! The complexity is in the frontend, not the backend. I know some industry professionals may disagree with this argument but I highly advise them to go through one dizzying code review of one module of an enterprise application before they rush to make that statement. The consumer application backend is much simpler than that of the enterprise, but the user experience is an art and a science because you have to attract and maintain customer loyalty.
- Complex consumer problems that require major depth, do not often make it to the market. Consumer applications seem to gravitate towards solving easier problems because it is easier to build and not as challenging to get artistic with the front end design. When it comes to complex consumer problems, most applications won’t even try to tackle this! Perfect examples are the home loan and the home renovation marketplaces. Not only do you have to understand the customer journey- identifying the pain points and finding solutions for them- you have to create an enjoyable, easy to use customer experience that can address the average Joe’s needs without exposing the complexity. That task can be very difficult and thus it is often avoided. Solving complex consumer problems is hard if not close to impossible.
- Tackling complex problems means a team effort. Kukun is trying to solve the complex user problems that come along with home renovation. The home renovation industry is complex. Fragmentations, multiple decisions, and multiple players have to come together in order for the industry to fix itself . Whether price opacity, time uncertainties, or the sheer task of hiring from a wider source of people (going beyond who your neighbor or friend knows) can be daunting. So far the home renovation industry has not found its passionate problem solver and that is where Kukun comes in. We had to understand the entire journey- what happens at every step, what could go wrong at every step- and try to find a solution for every problem. Then we had to weave all those into one suite that the user could find easy and mildly enjoyable. The end result was an orchestration effort. I said to our team, ‘Our job is to take spaghetti and produce a perfectly ordered Lasagne.’ The orchestration effort was so daunting that we spent over a year and a half changing and testing our approach to get to the right formula, and we are still at it since half of the platform has yet to be launched.
- There is no quick formula to success. Who has the guts to take on these challenges? It is not a simple task and there is no set formula for solving complex problems. The home renovation industry, like many others, still lives in the past and startups seem to focus on the easier problems. The match-making style applications between the contractor and the user is the preferred approach that startups take, but this does not address the problems of the user. Very few companies are tackling the task of solving the real problems for the consumer: Time, Money and Quality (TMQ). But we need to solve these problems. American consumers deserve better.