Ugly is Dead: YouEarnedIt and the Consumerization of Enterprise Software

February 14, 2013

1:00 pm

Ugliness is steadily losing ground in the digital world. The user experience revolution championed by companies like Apple and Google has nearly taken over. People are starting to require good design and intuitive function as a necessity instead of an added value. On mobile devices, that requirement is even stricter.

The enterprise software world, however, has long been a stronghold for unattractive, frustrating products. How many times have you been forced by your company or university to use software that seemed to be intentionally designed for frustration? Luckily, it looks as if the revolution is finally hoisting its flag here as well.

Websites for new enterprise companies like YouEarnedIt, FolioShack, and even Tomfoolery (at least its pre-launch landing page) look more like a social media or mobile app site than they do an enterprise HR or financial reporting tool.

Dave Knox, founder of The Brandery, CMO at Rockfish, and early-stage investor, says this “consumerization of the enterprise” is one of the most important trends to watch in technology. Knox explains it as follows:

“Startups are now applying best-in-class lessons learned from the consumer Internet and applying them to enterprise/B2B products. . . . Technology is happening at the consumer level first, [whereas before] people experienced new technology at the office. So employees expect the UX of enterprise software to be the same (if not better) than what they experience in their personal lives.”

YouEarnedIt is a great illustrative example. It is an exciting new take on employee recognition, rewards, and engagement. Simply put, they “allow people to give and receive recognition, then save it up to redeem for cool stuff.” This area has historically been stale: point-logging systems, complicated tracking utilities, and framed certificates are all that come to mind. But YouEarnedIt takes a process that has always been mandated from the top town, and literally turns it upside down. Instead of focusing on management-mandated requirements and rewards, they “put the power in the hands of the employees,” says Autumn Manning, EVP at YouEarnedIt.

With a background in talent development consulting, Manning has an deep knowledge of what is required for employees to develop their own abilities, and to help develop their colleagues’ as well. Interestingly, she says, the key is “keeping the employees engaged, and getting them to interact with each other to develop as a community.” Hmm…that sounds suspiciously like the key to success in pretty much every consumer Internet company of the last decade. It’s no wonder, then, that she says the guiding principles for her and her team are a focus on design and branding, bottom-up decision making, and “putting the user first.”

As these user experience values continue to creep into the enterprise software world, there is a huge opportunity for startups to disrupt the status quo. Every stodgy old product that eschews good design is ready to be killed, and after they’re dead, the only place ugly software will survive will be on government websites, but that’s a story for another time.

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Austin Rory Hackett is the cofounder and CEO of CrowdHall. He loves karaoke, pinball, and rock climbing. Follow him @austinrory.

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