This summer I spent time with some design students to understand what they want to do after graduation. Some of them wanted to go to startups and some to recognizable consumer websites. Surprise, surprise – none of them said they want to go into enterprise software. As we continued talking it became clear that they didn’t know that there are exciting opportunities for designers to make a difference in the lives of everyday, ordinary workers.
In fact, I believe that there has never been a better time to be a designer in the enterprise. Let’s clear up some common misunderstandings.
First, what is enterprise software? Just one example: When you order a product on an online shopping site and it arrives at your door – everything that happens in between is enterprise software. In a nutshell, enterprise software runs businesses.
Usually businesses buy enterprise software on the basis of features – the more, the better. But this is changing. People now expect the same ease of use at work as they have on their personal devices like smartphones and tablets. And why not? We deserve it, don’t you agree?
Business and IT folks are paying attention. They see better user experience (UX) now as increased productivity, increased adoption, reduced errors and training as well as improved employee engagement. This means there is now a solid business case for good design.
However, companies and IT departments are unprepared to handle this shift from features to experience. The missing ingredient is design.
This, too, is changing. Our customers are starting to understand the value of adding design as a competitive advantage. They are interested in hiring design talent and setting up UX Centers of Excellence. The demand for designers is starting to pick up.
It makes sense if you think about it. Here at SAP, for example, we have about 250,000 customers. Even if just 20% of our customers, say the largest 50,000 companies, decide to invest in designers, we can anticipate a demand of five million designers!
The exact numbers are not critical. I use them just to show that if customers who have the resources decide to leverage the power of design in their business, the demand for designers in the enterprise will skyrocket.
Simply adding designers is not enough. Businesses need a culture change – encouraging everyone to use design thinking – to truly make this transformation. At SAP, we have invested in a diverse array of designers, redesigned our space to be open and collaborative, and we have adopted the design thinking methodology to foster creativity and innovation.
So, all of you young design graduates, it may be fun to imagine going to work at Apple – or the next Apple. But please don’t rule out working in enterprise software. There is a chance to make a real difference for people who use business software. The opportunities are exciting, and demand is growing every day.