Stop Calling Software "Enterprise-Grade"

Software roadmaps and human-grade products

The strategy of the day seems to be to slap the word “enterprise-grade” on a product and then think that the product is miraculously ready for large businesses to buy. The idea is that the term “enterprise” as a marketing descriptor conveys that the product has chops and all the performance, reliability and security features a complex organization could ever dream of. The problem is that technology buyers are human.

Marketing teams should know better — because their customers do.

“Enterprise-grade” is not an official certification given to technology that passed specific tests. Instead, it is simply a lazy marketing term that is used when the product is not truly differentiated or the team was unwilling to think hard about its true benefits. As such, claims that technology is “enterprise-grade” or “enterprise-class” is approached with skepticism.

Here is what marketeers think they are conveying when they write “enterprise-grade”:

  • IT-ready
  • Highly scalable
  • Totally secure
  • Mega-performance
  • Fault-tolerant
  • Massively configurable

Here is what business users think when they read “enterprise-grade”:

  • Complex, ugly, expensive and not for me

I have come to this conclusion after speaking with over 1,000 product and engineering leaders about how to build better product strategy, visual roadmaps, and go-to-market plans with Aha!

I suggest that all technology companies (even those who serve IT) should be aiming for products that are “human-grade.” “Human-grade” refers to the quality of the finished product and the entire customer experience. The term applies to a product that is suitable and approved for consumption by an end user. For they are the ones consuming your product.

And remember, IT folks are people too.

Obviously, your product needs to be reliable, secure, and perform well. But those qualities are not going to move the users who need to actually use it.

So, build technology and an overall customer experience that is “human-grade” and use the following as a guide to know if you are getting there.

Make it lovable
In an increasingly transactional world, growth comes from long-term customer happiness. And long-term customer happiness comes when actual users adore your product or service and want you to succeed. You should be thinking about what it will take for customers to love you, not tolerate you. This means that you need to have real empathy and understanding of the challenges the customer is facing and what happens when they fail to solve them. This is the overarching principle and everything else will not matter if you get this wrong.

Remove the friction
You should take the friction out of everything that you and your product do. This means that a user or company should be able to get going with your technology with as little effort as possible. People will pay you for “easy.” This does not mean that the product should be shallow — it is just that it should reveal additional value as the customer’s confidence grows and he is ready to dive deeper. Making it easy should be pervasive from the moment the customer learns about you to the moment he needs support.

Be a friend
The bits are only part of the product. Remember that the customer is interacting with your technology and your company and it is the overall experience that matters. This means that you need to be there to help when the customer needs it. I am not just talking about assistance while you are trying to extract money in a pre-sales environment. I mean that you need to be there like a friend — whenever the customer needs it.

You are not creating a product — but an experience and an outcome. If you follow this guide, you will be rewarded. You will build customers for life, advocates who will help grow your business, and thought leadership in market.

“Human-grade” products also command higher prices because people pay more for what delights them.

We think everyone — IT, users, CXOs, product managers, and developers too — should demand nothing less than “human-grade” technology. In the end, when they do, we will all focus on building technology that serves people and be happier for it.

About Brian and Aha!

Brian seeks business and wilderness adventure. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aha! — the world’s #1 roadmap software — and the author of the bestseller Lovability. Brian writes and speaks about product and company growth and the adventure of living a meaningful life.

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