Changing the Enterprise Software Narrative

Today we launched EnterpriseReady. Our goal with this project is to change the enterprise narrative from “how to SELL to the enterprise” to "how to BUILD for the enterprise". But what does that mean exactly?

From our perspective, too much of the conversation about enterprise software has been dominated with advice about to sell & market to enterprise buyers. This advice is full of tips and tricks about how to manage the different players in the buying process. However, we’ve found the conversation lacks the product and engineering focus that drives us. We’ve started software companies to solve problems with code, not to socially engineer champions and detractors.

EnterpriseReady was created for those who build SaaS products. It’s a guide to building the SaaS features that enterprises love.

Removing the translator

However, the enterprise software buying process is complicated and the road is filled with obstacles that only a seasoned enterprise software sales person seems able to navigate. But, what if the problem isn’t that the buyers are mired in bureaucratic process designed to suck the life out of emerging software companies? What if instead we just don’t understand what enterprise buyers are talking about and what they want? In that case, the sales organization is wasting time as a translator between customers and product/engineering. For westerners who have done business in Asia (or vice versa), you’ll understand the pain of trying to negotiate or pitch with a translator in the middle. Everything takes twice as long and it leads to great misunderstanding.

Instead of requiring that salespeople translate the needs of enterprise customers, if we can establish an understanding of the problems enterprise face in adopting our software then we should be able to more quickly deliver the solutions. For salespeople who have partially-served as translator, they’ll be able to focus time on more customers and close deals more quickly (sales efficiency).

Creating a common vernacular

This is why we created EnterpriseReady. We want the people who build software products to have some additional insight into the underlying requirements of enterprise buyers. Hopefully, that insight leads to understanding, which leads to empathy and amazing solutions for your customers. We think that most great product people already have empathy for their users, however the extent of our empathy is limited by knowledge and understanding. In an enterprise sales scenario, our understanding is sometimes limited by our fear of asking dumb questions. No one wants to be in the middle of an enterprise sales customer discovery conversation and admit that they don’t have the slightest idea what the last 5 acronyms mean. (I’ve done it, it’s a mistake.) That potential customer might pay big $$$ for your software, they expect you to know! However, this just reinforces the lack of understanding.

So instead, we set out to create a common vernacular for enterprise features… not just a checklist, but a detailed analysis of what these features really entail. First, we outline the top features (currently 11) that enterprises will ask for. Next, we define the underlying reasons that these features are needed. Then, we outline what we’ve found to be the basic requirements. Finally, we provide example implementations from successful SaaS companies who have delivered these features (sometimes, not so well). We want this to start off as jumping off point for conversations between all stakeholders, including customers, sales, product and engineering (much in the way 12factor.net has for modern software architects and developers).

Better together

Please use this however you want. We open-sourced it so you can fork it and create your own version that you share with customers or your internal team. If you come up with new features that we should add, please contribute them back.

This will be an evolving guide so make sure you sign up to receive the email updates on the site www.enterpriseready.io.

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