At Monaeo, our very first product was for consumers. In fact, it was for a specific sub-set of consumers, high net-worth individuals. We understood the problem they faced (tedious manual entry of where they spent each day) and how technology could help solve it. It was only after we built our platform that we realized businesses were facing the same problem on a larger level.
Although we still have an active and growing consumer customer base, by now most of Monaeo’s clients are large companies. While the core technology of our product remains the same, our tech team had to pivot when we first targeted the enterprise market. Even when the software is similar, there are critical differences between developing enterprise and consumer products.
Our CTO, Vinay Pai, has been at the helm of technology for both B2B and B2C companies. He agreed to share his thoughts about the key considerations when building an app for each user group.
After getting a Ph.D. in computer science, in 2006 Vinay joined a fledgling online dating company as a software engineer. A year later he became the CTO and over the next 3 years scaled out systems to support growth from thousands of users 10x to more than 5,000,000 users. Daily users on-site increased around 1000%. The company, OkCupid, became a household name.
OkCupid is a data analytics company, using math to help people get dates. Now Vinay builds a product that uses math to help people save money, as CTO of Monaeo. The differences in marketing and sales for enterprise products are more transparent, but Vinay argues that there are key differences in the technology for both as well.
This is Part 1 of a 5-part series where Vinay Pai talks about key things to know about building technology products for businesses.
#1. Systems integrations will become your biggest headache.
A key challenge for any enterprise technology company is systems integration. Every business has legacy technology and existing partnerships with third-party vendors. The larger the enterprise, the more technology they will have in place and the harder it will be for them to change it.
Enterprise software developers, therefore, need to be prepared for many more external systems. No matter how impressive your product, a large organization simply won’t use it if it isn’t compatible with their established practices and processes.
Similar to consumer technology, it’s essential for enterprise software developers to make a core architecture that is simple to build on top of. Developers building consumer products often struggle to build an underlying system powerful enough to support the feature-rich bells and whistles demanded by users.
In enterprise technology, however, the challenge is making sure that you can satisfy each client’s demands while not interfering with your core system. A system needs to be able to take in data from existing systems and spit new data back out in forms the enterprise can use (whether that’s as simple as a CV or as complex as feeding directly into a home-grown time and attendance system).
For a multi-tenant SaaS system like Monaeo, where enterprise customers can dictate exactly how they need the product to work, it’s crucial that product can work with a number of third-party software without bleeding into core systems. If you let each client’s needs become part of your core architecture, you risk doing extra work in the long run.
In the next installment of this series, we discuss how to do user testing when you don’t have direct access to your users.