Contemporary software as a service platforms held up well under the pressures created by the COVID 19 shutdown of business around the world, but those same stresses have exposed the limitations of older enterprise apps, even those with a Saas heritage.

That is the view of VMware CIO and chief digital transformation officer Bask Iyer who made the comments during a recent interview with Which-50.com.

We asked Iyer to describe his own experience as an information technology leader during a period of significant organizational stress.

“Zoom was fabulous. They did a good job. I’m hearing other [companies] are catching up as well but I think the timing was really good for them.”

Bask Iyer,  CIO and chief digital transformation officer, VMware

He said email solutions like those of Microsoft and Google likewise managed well, as did other collaboration tools.”

“A lot of R&D runs on Slack, they are holding up pretty well as well.”

Iyer said the modern saas providers were able to scale them because they were built from the ground up to do so.

However, while declining to names names, he said some of the more established enterprise applications providers, even those which are Saas based, had a tougher time.

“Some of these Saas providers are legacy. If you think about it, these are companies that have been around for 20 to 25 years on the enterprise application side.”

He said one thing that was clear is they are not really built for mobile. “Even though they have heavy-duty mobile apps these are not built as micro-apps. I think there’s an opportunity for somebody to innovate in those areas.”

We suggested Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software is a case in point. ERP solutions manage things like core manufacturing, distribution, and finance functions platforms. This is the bet-the-business software that keeps the machine humming. But most solutions emerged in the 1990s and didn’t conceive of the speed or the scale of the web.

Iyer suggested ERP was one of several categories where these kinds of limitations exist.

“None of them are really designed from ground up for remote workers, or for gig workers.”

For instance, with gig workers, he said, “ I want to give you three hours access to my corporate system, and itself expires. You can come and do a gig, and you just have the ability to do three, four, or five things.”

“They were not designed like that,” he said, but instead they were built on the premise that you have an account, or perhaps they require a specific type of device like a laptop.

What changed?

Iyer told Which-50 that the difference today is that many successful enterprise apps are conceived of with a consumer mindset. 

Slack for instance began as a gaming communications platform, while Gmail started life as an individual email solution.

Iyer said, “Some of the really modern ones, Zoom would be a good example, that’s an enterprise app but it’s taken off in the consumer world. I believe there’s no such thing as a B2B business, almost everything is a B2C.”

By extension, he said,  “There is no such thing as an enterprise app, they all have to be customer-simple and consumer-ready.”

But even here, Iyer sees an opportunity for smart innovators to deliver improvements.

Collaboration tools for instance were largely designed for an in-office environment.

“They can still be a little bit more natural,” he suggested.

Image credit: Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash

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