Everywhere you look, people are modifying products to fit their personal tastes and individual usage. People are no longer willing to accept products as shipped by the manufacturer – products they used to be happy to buy. Companies that enable their customers to adjust products easily to meet their specific needs are going to do well. Companies that try to maintain control, despite customer wishes, are doomed to fail.

LEGO understands how to capitalize on the new dynamics. When the game-changing LEGO Mindstorms product line first came out nearly 20 years ago, it wasn’t very successful. Consumers didn’t seem to know what to do with the robotics kits. At the time, Mindstorms were closed, based on proprietary software, limited by the uses that LEGO product managers envisioned at the time.

LEGO enthusiasts saw the opportunity to push the boundaries of what was possible with Mindstorms. A few years after its release, LEGO discovered there was an underground community where people were cracking the Mindstorms software and writing their own software for the system, allowing them to do many things LEGO employees had never dreamed of. LEGO realized the people in this community were onto something. Now, LEGO has opened its Mindstorms product to modification by the people who are most passionate about its potential and the product line is now wildly successful.

It’s not just consumer products that have the potential to be personalized for greater usability. At SAP, we are telling our customers today: You don’t have to accept our software as shipped. You can make it fit you. You don’t have to be a software developer to modify our software and make it your own. SAP Screen Personas is a great example of this capability, offering a mostly drag-and-drop approach to modifying many common SAP screens to make them more intuitive, usable, and better looking.

Even Apple, a giant when it comes to product design, is lagging on radical personalization. I would love to be able to personalize how my iPhone functions at a deeper level. I want to do more than just move icons from one screen to another. For example, I’d like a one click way to turn on location services in certain circumstances, rather than having to navigate multiple menus to do it manually. I don’t want to have to work so hard to perform a simple change that I do several times each day. I shouldn’t have to.

It’s going to take a while for the enterprise software industry – among other industries – to catch up with radical personalization. Here at SAP, we are making strong progress on making personalization accessible, after several years of hard work in this area. I look forward to the day when I can personalize anything I buy to suit my individual needs.

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