Lead story - Is enterprise software on its last legs?
In a monster think piece, Looking ahead - the future of application software, Brian provokes us to rethink enterprise software, before we find ourselves in the dreaded laggard category, with dire business consequences.
This isn't the type of article you can summarize, but I think it's important to understand: why was Brian compelled to write this? Because of conversations with CXOs on the ground:
To illustrate, one CIO recently shared with me his desire to keep all applications and application data on local machines that his IT group can maintain and monitor... The applications of today are already outstripping what this CIO has and, in this case, he’s unaware of how this position will make his firm uncompetitive long-term.
But Brian isn't letting software vendors off the hook here. After he unfurls a potent list of what customers now expect from enterprise applications - including painless/fast upgrades and best-in-class security - Brian challenges vendors to deliver on "tomorrow's application offerings." Amongst the things these apps must deliver:
An ability to quickly replace one application with something newer/better. Vendors have gone the opposite direction (i.e., with lock-in strategies, punitive contract terms, unfathomable internal integration issues, etc.) for decades and users are tired of this. They want a vendor to offer a great application and if it fails to meet the customer’s ever changing/growing needs, then replacing it should be as simple as acquiring a new app on one’s smartphone. Reread this bullet point and think of an app as an AI utility and you’ll really see why this matters.
An "app as an AI utility"? Easily interchangeable and affordable? That's certainly not today's reality, but I don't think Brian's wrong here. It's more a matter of timeframes. I'll say this: before we get to any kind of plug-and-play environment, I think we'll need to pass through the data platform phase, where software applications take considerably more responsibility for easing the data problems of their customers. Whether it's ERP vendors, CX vendors or analytics vendors, we're certainly seeing that trend now - but vendors are nowhere near where customers would like them to be.
Diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week
- Landmark Group uses e2open technology to boost supply chain efficiencies - Mark Samuels bears down on a fresh use case: "The big challenge for internal employees has involved replacing legacy technologies and integrating e2open’s services with Landmark’s other technologies, such as Oracle ERP. So far, however, so good."
- The insurance industry might be flirting with AI, but it's still lagging behind in CX - Neil provides context to the insurance industry's CX obstacles, where slickly-produced commercials belie the underlying problems.
- AI - will GPT put millennials out of work? Sisense CEO warns ‘the middle’ will fall - Chris shares a spicy/worthwhile debate with Sisense on the employment impact of GPT. Sidenote: I don't believe Sisense's sensational notion that the middle will fall. The "middle" of information workers will need to become more savvy with AI tools, but claiming AI will replace the "middle" drastically overestimates the current and short-term future technical capabilities of AI to actually completely replace a problem-solving person with experience. We don't even know yet if generative AI will improve productivity, much less replace jobs (I suspect GPT will, indeed, improve some job efficiencies but that's not a sexy enough discussion for most). In reality, it's the "juniors" that are threatened - junior programmers, junior accountants, you name it - or anyone whose job is focused entirely on producing a fairly static set of requirements for a more senior person to act on, or process with a customer. I'll get into why in a future piece.
Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:
- QlikWorld 2023 - it's time to talk about our relationships with data - Alex gives her take on the ground from QlilWorld in Vegas: "Qlik isn't advocating that everyone needs to become a data expert, but according to a whole host of Qlik customers and partners, the commitment to learning at all organizational levels is critical."
- Salesforce takes workflow into the generative generation with new Einstein GBT and Data Cloud integrations - Stuart: "What could happen if generative AI could learn from trusted customer data, data about prospects, partners etc? This has led to Salesforce's Einstein GBT, positioned as 'the world’s first generative AI for CRM'."
- What Zuora's Subscription Economy Index tells us about growing adoption of the XaaS model - Phil parses Zuora's index: "Zuora's SEI is a useful barometer of rising adoption, but in many ways is only measuring the tip of a huge iceberg of broader momentum."
Oracle CloudWorld Tour hits London:
- Oracle’s EMEA Applications Chief talks Fusion, enterprise AI and taking a long-term view - Derek shares his 1:1 in London: has Fusion reached a tipping point in EMEA?
- Can AI make supply chains smarter? Oracle's Steve Miranda on filling logistics black holes, and how customers' supply chain needs have changed - Prior to CloudWorld London, Miranda fielded my pesky questions on supply chain black holes, and gave me his generative AI take as well.
A few more vendor picks, without the quotables:
- SAP delivers solid Q1 and says it is in ‘advanced stages’ of applying generative AI - Derek
- Atlassian taps OpenAI as it expands intelligent features across its products - Stephanie
- Heap adds mobile SDKs to track mobile experiences - Barb
Jon's grab bag - Earth Day was Saturday, April 22 - but are we getting corporate traction? A diginomica three part series took on the issues:
- Earth Day 2023 - how Virgin Media O2 is tackling the challenge of environmental intersectionality - Cath
- Earth Day 2023 - tackling food sustainability through greening the supply chain and AI-enabled insect farms - Cath
- Earth Day 2023 - five ways tech can help the global sustainability imperative - Madeline
Derek examines the state of online safety in Encrypted messaging services - including WhatsApp - write to UK government urging Online Safety Bill rethink. Meanwhile, Chris looks at generative AI's creative impact in two companion pieces: IP in crisis – the march of generative AI and its impact on the arts and IP in crisis – can the music industry survive the AI onslaught? Chris is right to bear down on the legal implications of generative AI, for both artists (who deserve much greater royalties and IP protections) and for AI vendors/consumers - that need to understand their liabilities/obligations.
But as for the AI industry destroying music - nahh. Anyone who thinks AI-generated music is as good as the best human artists just hasn't had the time to move beyond today's putrid top ten pop playlist. It's the music and design used in corporate offerings, like video background music or marketing brochures (or even some audio books) that is threatened by AI. And, as Chris points out, generative AI fakes and derivatives can win the kind of algorithmic attention that many real artists struggle to achieve.
Best of the enterprise web
My top six
- AI might not steal your job, but it could change it - not the most brilliant piece on AI and the future of work ever published, but at least it steps back from the extravagant claims we've seen elsewhere. "Katz says it’s essential that humans stay in the loop when using AI systems and highlights the professional obligation of lawyers to be accurate: 'You should not just take the outputs of these systems, not review them, and then give them to people.'"
- Google’s AI panic forces merger of rival divisions, DeepMind and Brain - Will Google's aggressive AI moves pay off, or backfire?
- Supply Chain Normalcy? Think Again - Lora Cecere on her game again. On Twittter, Josh Greenbaum circled this scorching quote: "Companies driving digital transformation did not outperform their peer groups during the past three years."
- The Surprises Continue As Tech Buying Effectiveness Continues to Regress - Collaborative enterprise buying is the trend, but as Gartner's Hank Barnes has documented, that doesn't ensure high quality deals: "This is not a good pattern. Even as we move to collaborative, 'empowered' decision environments, we aren’t preparing those teams on what they need to do to complete those decisions."
- The Dark Side of the Digital Transformation and Tech Consulting Industry - I like it when Eric Kimberling goes scorched earth...
- BuzzFeed News will shut down - Darn, we'll never seen BuzzFeed's AI-generated newsroom in action...
So, it turns out a robot some thought was "protesting wage slavery" actually just fell off the trade show stage. Some cringeworthy HR riffs have been making the rounds. Brian and Clive passed this dud along: CEO Tells Employees On Zoom To Stop Complaining About Not Receiving Bonuses… After Taking A $1.2 Million Bonus For Herself. Zoom employee meetings: the gift that keeps on giving.
Brian sent this dandy along also: 'I hope this addresses your concern': Employee asks HR why new employees are getting paid more, gets ridiculous response.
A blustery and confusing response, you're forgiven if you don't have the desire to inhale those verbose fumes. But this rebuttal captures the gist:
Sounds like if I want higher pay, I leave and come back. Correct?
Finally, kudos for this pretzel-twist defense of the Metaverse. You have to love the "everybody's doing it, so don't be left behind" buying argument - suitable for giving TikTok a spin perhaps, but maybe not for enterprise budget holders, who have a soft spot for business cases and ROI? Then, to somehow twist the news of Disney's dismantling of their Metaverse unit as an argument in favor of a Metaverse investment? Nifty trick indeed. Nice job not mentioning Walmart's kiboshing of their "Metaverse experience" on Roblox. And, to get through the entire piece without mentioning the barrier to adoption posed by ridiculous/expensive headgear - and to somehow equate resistance to the Metaverse with the resistance to the Internet itself? Now that's pretzel-making! Serve that pretzel hot! See you next time...
If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed.