First some background. I was one of the early innovators and engineers of Exact Synergy (of Baco at that time). It was pre Internet bubble and technology was primitive but hip and cool. We created a product that structured business processes and provided transparency on the performance of your business. That was then, today it's a different world, I left Exact, technology has advanced enormously, a wave of consumerization in IT has taken place and users have become much more IT savvy and demanding. What hasn't changed is the need for efficient and structured business process, but the way we work has changed and puts new perspectives on those business processes. Running a business requires deeper expertise and has become a much more collaborative effort than before, not only within your business but also outside your business.
I usually don't comment on Exact products and services, because those products and services are a proud part of my professional live and I don't want to bring them into any discredit. However here I can only partially agree with Barry's suggestions, because it's a typical more of everything will make it better list. I believe we are at an inflection point in the industry where it's not about more features, but about the emotional value of the features. Like Steve Jobs once said: It's not about the mega pixels of the camera, it's about taking good pictures!
In the introduction I already mentioned that today's users are more demanding and expect a fluent and smooth experience. I absolutely agree with Barry that Exact needs to pick-up speed in this area. The preview was launched when I was still Exact and I'm sorry to hear that this hasn't become the standard yet. I also agree that many tasks, like document and work flow management need to become a lot easier to do. However lets not forget that a lot of the complexity has been introduced based on feedback from customers as Barry is serving. The key challenge for business software today is to balance feature richness versus usability. As long as the purchase process is feature driven instead of user driven it's very difficult break this pattern.
I also mentioned that I find Barry's suggestions in the category: more of everything will make it a better product. I don't agree with this approach, it might be on the very short term, but it's not sustainable over a long period of time. Looking at the product life cycle I would opt for a completely different and more radical approach, because the future of business solutions for the SMB (Exact's target market) is in cloud with easy to start, easy to use, low cost, no customer lock in solutions. Saying this I also realize this is not the most preferable option for Exact partners like Barry's employer Nobel, but change is the name of the game here. What would I do?
- Take the current product and strip 40% of the least used features, including many of the personalization and customization features.
- Bring the product to the cloud as a multi-tenant single instance Software as a Service offering.
- Authentication based existing identities (e.g. Google Account, Windows Live ID, OpenID)
- Expose all functionality with a consumer web REST API with OAuth authentication. This API will allow the eco-system to integrate other products, build extensions and even create customer niche specific user interfaces.
- Have a two layered offering based on the platform (with OEM licensing for partners) and the product.
- Build a market place around the platform where Exact can distribute the eco-system solutions
- Integrate with Exact Online.
Now back to Barry's points
- User Experience, this should already have been done.
- Document and 3. Work flow management are for the most part of 1. User Experience. The rest is about building extensions based on the API.
- Work flow management has a bit of a challenge in the 4 steps, but the bigger challenge is that work flow is about status change based on rules. It's not a carrier of information, but that is how it's currently used in many situations.
- Flexibility, can only be achieved with a proper easy to use and flexible API.
- Reporting, The integrations with companies like Qlikview, Business Objects, etc. is something where the eco-system should jumping and offer the integrations via the marketplace
- Social CRM and...
- Social Interaction, this starts with authentication and separation between business and personal identities. The product and only become truly social if the product is open enough to interact with existing social platforms, because for building your own there is not enough scale.
- Marketing, integrate with anything you want based on the API!
- Cloud, the only cloud is a public multi-tenant cloud. Anything else is just a temporary solution
- Successor for Exact Globe, that is why Exact Synergy and Exact Online need to merge into one Software as a Service platform exposed with a common API serving multiple products.
Just to remind you: I've no insights into the road map of Exact and this is my personal view on the matter. I believe we are at an inflection point in the industry that requires to take a step back, before it can move forward again.
If you agree or don't agree or like or dislike, let me know in the comments below. If you believe some of my ideas can help your business, feel free to contact me.