Selling enterprise software

Enterprise software largely sucks

I remember an expense app that would refresh the page everytime you hit the Tab key to move fields. It would also only work with a certain web browser, up to a certain version. Some 30,000 people used this application, everyone probably hated it, but no one could do anything about it.

However, flipping it around, building enterprise software is hard. The adage that build it and they will come cannot be further from the truth when you’re dealing with enterprise software.

Let’s say you build for an organization with the idea of selling it to other organizations. That takes you down the path of feature creep and much customization that may not work well for others.

Let’s say you build to solve a problem. How do you get it into the doors of the enterprise?

SME’s in Malaysia make up most of the organizations which could probably use software. These people are employing less than 50 people (small; medium is less than 150 people) and are the backbone of the economy. Many don’t want to have the Internet in their offices. Do you think they want to pay for your software?

MNC’s aren’t usually interested in local enterprise software. If they are, its going to cost a lot of money to get your foot in the door. Getting into government is also expensive (that is a little special in Malaysia with quotas & other nonsense – rest of Asia is probably fairer in this respect).

The enterprise mentality is also largely “no one got fired for buying IBM”. Breaking this mindset is tough. Some mitigate this by saying the software itself is opensource. I don’t think that argument provides bonus points to CIOs.

So there are many problems to solve in the enterprise space, but getting your foot in the door and in front of enterprises is crucial. You don’t want to go bust trying to sell.