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Summary:

Much like television is experiencing a diversity of new and niche content thanks to the change in distribution wrought by broadband, the enterprise is experiencing a similar explosion of software.

House of cards

If you spent days digging through old TV Guides or perusing decade-old reviews in Entertainment Weekly, you wouldn’t be able to find a period of time with more television program – or channel – diversity than today.

A decade ago, HBO was just starting to produce award-winning shows and networks like AMC and Showtime didn’t have critically-renowned, successful primetime programs like The Walking Dead, Mad Men and Homeland. Sensations on Netflix like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black were unheard of. And none of these shows would have stood a chance against the big networks’ Sunday night Nielsen Rating toppers like The Good Wife, Almost Human or America’s Funniest Home Videos.

Now Netflix has more than 40 million subscribers and its female prison drama has an estimated four million viewers. HBO’s fantasy epic Game of Thrones has more than 14 million and upscale British soap Downton Abbey sees more than 11 million from local PBS stations.

If you look closely, there’s a similar shift taking place in the enterprise.

Mad Men

From TV networks to the enterprise

The increased diversity in successful television shows in the past few years is a direct result of technology changes that have enabled smaller, specialty networks to produce and distribute more content at lower costs – and in the process, grab market share from established networks. This innovation has also created opportunities for consumers. Plus, with the expansion of broadband cable and Internet, they’re no longer chained to TVs with a set top box. They can stream content in real-time and also view most content across a variety of devices and times.

The same shift is occurring in the enterprise – with similar benefits for both the software vendors and end users. Successful companies are emerging to serve certain niches thanks to the proliferation of devices and increased connectivity among users. With more diversified power comes more apps for the end user to choose from – which can only mean positive things for the organizations for which those end users work. When employees can choose between apps like Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, Accellion and Google Docs – just for enterprise collaboration – they’ll be happier and more productive. And that will translate across the workplace in many ways.

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ABC, FOX and NBC, Oracle, CA and SAP: The legacy players

Despite technology significantly lowering the barrier to entry in the television game, the five big networks – ABC, FOX, CBS, NBC and CW – still dominate. Similarly, legacy technology providers like Oracle and CA have dominated the enterprise as IT departments have relied entirely on software running on-premises with all data being stored behind a firewall. Those IT departments were charged millions of dollars up front and forced into painful configurations and integrations that were too cost- and time-prohibitive to abandon.

And while times are clearly changing, these massive enterprises aren’t going anywhere. Much like networks such as CBS are introducing new services (for example, free streaming for March Madness and NFL Playoffs) to grow viewer counts, legacy enterprise vendors are making tons of important acquisitions to branch out into new categories.

Yet, the impact of new ‘specialty’ players in the marketplace cannot be ignored. Just as networks like Netflix and Hulu have turned heads, they are finding themselves in competition with even smaller niche players such as The Daily Burn TV app or MLB Live. The same thing is happening in enterprise software.

Gmail app for iOS

The rise of (not so) niche apps

Now that major SaaS players such as Jive, Salesforce.com and Workday have established themselves in the enterprise, a second group of cloud companies has emerged to serve more targeted audiences. Take Veeva Systems, whose CEO Peter Gassner recently spoke on a panel on the network effect in the enterprise. A sort of ‘niche’ version of Salesforce.com, Veeva provides a CRM solution designed specifically for life sciences companies. The company, which has customers like Bayer, Pfizer, Merck and hundreds of others, went public in October, raising around $217 million by upping its offering price $20 on its first day trading on NYSE.

Then there’s London Gatwick Airport, one of the busiest airports in Europe and a massive enterprise that has eliminated more than 200 servers during its move to the cloud. The airport is working directly with UFIS Airport Solutions to develop a cloud app designed specifically for other airports interested in making the transition.

A few years ago, consumers had a few hundred apps and services to choose from on their PCs – and today, consumers have access to more than one million of them across a plethora of devices, just as they do with TV programs and networks. Companies like Veeva and UFIS are creating massively successful companies by taking what the first wave of cloud companies accomplished and changing the game to provide even more value to (not so) niche industries.

“We want more!”

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Just like the kids in those AT&T commercials I can’t seem to get out of my head, IT departments in every industry from pharmaceuticals to international travel want more. And they’re getting it. Because it’s easier and less expensive than ever to build companies and apps, we’re living and working in a landscape that’s ideal for the end user and their respective organizations. It’s also one that creates more opportunity for diverse startups that wouldn’t have seen this success even a few years ago.

So, just as viewers love the many programming options available today and the networks that introduce it, end users and their employers love these niche apps and companies are seeing success from them – they’re essentially the Orange is the New Blacks and Game of Thrones of the enterprise.

Todd McKinnon is the CEO of Okta.

  1. The cloud revolution is here to stay. When you have institutions like the CIA and other government and big corporations switching over to the cloud, then you know the transition for real. This of course presents a huge security challenge for the industry. The tech industry is gonna need more security professionals than ever. Good time to be in the security business.

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  2. Good post Todd. I love the “legacy players” comparison between ABC, FOX and NBC and Oracle, CA and SAP.

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