Conventional wisdom holds that the consumerization of IT is going to take over virtually every market and that the entrenched enterprise vendors are in big trouble. This is no more apparent than in file sync and share where it is suggested that the new kids on the block are going to own the market at the expense of the establishment and that the needs of end users will trump those of enterprise IT.
However, as someone who is in the trenches of this market every day, it is obvious that this is an overly simplistic view and ignores a number of truisms of enterprise user and IT requirements that aren’t going away.
Our view is that strategic and trusted enterprise technology vendors not only have a role in the future of end user computing, but that their customers are asking that we help drive this transformation for them. This takes innovation and risk-taking, but before I expand on that, a little background.
Reports of Enterprise IT's Death Greatly Exaggerated
Some vendors in this market are trying to be all things to all people, pursuing a one-size-fits-all approach. This assumes that users will simply adopt what they want and IT will be helpless to reverse the trend. In reality, enterprise IT is alive, well, and very much aware of what is occurring in the file sync and share market. And they are increasingly controlling the selection and usage of the services, which cannot be defined in singular or generic terms. Consumers, SMBs and enterprises have different requirements and success requires focus— it is practically impossible to serve the needs of all of these markets in the long term. In fact, end users have greatly different requirements – the needs of an individual that wants to share photos is very different from one who is sharing business-critical files.
The enterprise might be the trickiest market to solve because you are essentially going after two audiences – end users and IT – whose needs seem to always be in diametric opposition to each other. To succeed, you need to achieve a critical balance.
1. To be considered for enterprise deployments, you MUST have the blessing of IT.As the gatekeepers of technology deployments, they are never going to evaluate and bless solutions that touch a company’s most important asset – its information – without thorough compliance and security testing.
2. Getting 25 users in a small department in a Fortune 100 company to use your solution does not make you an enterprise solution or even make it easier to become the standard in a large company. The iPhone didn’t become an accepted enterprise device until it satisfied IT’s security concerns with email.
3. That said, enterprise IT knows that it needs to adapt and evolve. Users must love the enterprise file sync and share solution and have it become part of their work routine. If your IT department blesses the solution and no one uses it, then you have wasted your time and resources.
Disrupt But Don’t Break
While enterprise file sync and share has emerged as a critical service, for it to be embraced in the enterprise, it must disrupt old, inefficient ways of doing business, but not break either your IT infrastructure or your employees’ work habits.
1. Frictionless user experiences trump feature bloat. You cannot change the way people normally send, access, edit and save files – from any device on which they are working. File sync and share has to be an easy extension of what they are already doing on their laptop, tablet or smartphone, not a completely new paradigm.
2. Enterprises have spent billions of dollars on SharePoint, file servers, and other technologies to store content. Enterprises won’t solve the “silo problem” by spending billions more creating a new silo and assuming their customers will move everything there. That approach is the reason why we have so many silos to begin with! Any new solution must be an easy overlay to your existing systems – IT departments will not rip out and replace their existing investments.
3. Enterprises have an enormous IT and legal risk in meeting regulatory and security compliance. You must be able to support the compliance, data residency and security policies of the enterprise—and that means giving IT the flexibility to work within the existing security and compliance infrastructure they’ve already established. Do not force a new one on them. If you do, strike the word enterprise out of your product name.
With these rules in mind, how do existing enterprise vendors lead the way? Simply put, to avoid being disrupted they need to be willing to drive the disruption themselves. While clearly a consumer example, Apple did just that by releasing iTunes on the iPhone even though they had a significant franchise with the iPod. And it worked.
For file sync and share market, disruption means providing your customers flexibility. It means supporting and integrating with a wide range of cloud-based and on premise storage solutions. It means adopting business practices that are very different from the traditional enterprise technology approach, such as deploying key services in the cloud to maintain a high pace of innovation, pricing on a consumption model to better align with customer adoption, and making an inordinate investment in mobile apps and the end user experience.
For those of us who have been and remain completely focused on the enterprise, this is a very exciting time. We are demonstrating that IT gets what they need and can serve the needs of the business user. The result: the incumbents have a legitimate chance to drive the disruption in the market.