Editor’s note: This post went running off into a direction I did not expect when I sat down to write about the role of Pre-Sales in the near future. My pre-determined conclusion was “of course Pre-Sales will always be needed. We help explain complex stuff to people in the sales process.” We’re the last role you can afford to get rid of in Enterprise Software sales, or sales of any significant capital investment in technology.
But what if the premises change? What if enterprise technology is no longer a capital investment? What if it’s not complex?
Well, that’s something else entirely, isn’t it?
Below, I begin to track the direction the marketplace in which we live and operate is headed by considering technology, licensing, and usability trends. It’s incomplete; there’s a lot of thinking to be done here. I’ll be chasing these scrambling ideas and trying to catch up with them. Stay tuned.
In the meantime…
Applications, modules, technology stacks, open platforms, open source, third party solutions, cloud, integration, APIs, web-services, micro-services, everything as a service, internet of things, predictive, data, digital, speed, experience, social.
Stop the ride, I want to sit down until the spinning goes away.
Where are information technology systems headed? How will these business-process transactional systems and data repositories function five, ten years hence?*
- Software is on a vector of becoming more encapsulated into services, securely and scalably available on-demand, in the cloud, without the need for massive technology stacks, efficient database design, code-level customizing. There’s one codebase, one multi-tenant instance of that code. The debugging and support of that is centralized to the owners and creators of that code instead of the users.
- User interfaces are being simplified in process and access toward the common usability of tablet and phone: swipe, tap, hold, voice-operated commands, share, transient notification, bookmark, options-menu and escape.
- Decisions are moving from IT-guided to line-of-business owned. The ultimate destination would therefore be individual user choice. If you can pick your own phone and arrange your own apps for personal use, why not pick your own processes and personal suite of applications for the office?
- System to system, process to process, and transaction to analysis orchestration has moved from coding to configuration to wizard-based configuration. Why couldn’t an individual user authenticated into an enterprise domain self-configure through context-aware wizards rather than it being a back office task?
- Why wouldn’t a user be able to string enterprise services together ad-hoc, following their whim, such as engaging a customer into a marketing message, checking on their accounts payable status, then running them through a prediction of loyalty, all to serve the user’s needs in preparation for a phone call (which would itself be automatically logged back into the enterprise-domain’s expansive knowledge base?
- These concepts are possible today, but on a macro scale, rigidly built to a process; it’s efficient mass-marketing through better intelligence. The difference here is the individual enterprise user could leverage all of this information on their own, coordinate it on the fly, to their need, and to the prospect’s need.
- Consumption is moving from permanent user licenses to annual subscriptions to rate-charging. How many minutes/transactions/reports did you use this month?
- The structure of enterprise systems is dictated by data, by transactions, by form-based processing of data and transactions. But that very structure limits users to safe processes which serve the systems, not the other way around. Systems serve regulatory, transactional, and executive information needs. They are still in their infancy in serving end user needs or even the needs of the business partners tracked and transacted about in the systems.
- If the back office needs structure and transactions and data, those needs can be defined as expected outputs of individual user-centric software components. Every piece of Lego has a stud to connect it to the others. Every financial transaction has an account and a debit or credit.
- We’re serving the transaction and the data. What does the rest of the body that meets at the connecting point look like?
- In an on-demand, easy-to-use, rate-charged world where end users can pick what they need, the user’s purchase decision (the sale) will be referential and experimental. Users will keep the ones that work, the ones they like.
This isn’t Enterprise Software; it’s, um, what’s the word? User-ware? Role-soft? Enterprise Self Service? The Autonomous Enterprise Backbone? The Individual Enterprise? The Enterprise of Individual Contributors?**
Will the world even need Pre-Sales in the not too distant future? Is that the right question?
Consider this: as decision, configuration, and use passes from Coder to Consultant to IT to Line of Business to Individual Actor, it will have to pass through a phase where a subject matter and technical expert can define business solutions on the fly and on behalf of an end user. You know, another common title for Pre-Sales is Solution Consultant. Maybe the technology is simply catching up to us? Will this be the phase to hang out our shingles and bring together everything we know for our clients by using off the shelf services?
*Nearly twenty years ago I predicted that Amazon would have storefronts everywhere within two years and blow Barnes and Noble and Borders off the face of the earth. I was spectacularly wrong.
** I’d better trademark some of these and write a book.