Enterprise software is, traditionally, not terribly user-friendly. It’s not as though the companies involved never make an effort to provide usability — it’s just that we’re usually looking at monolithic systems that try to cover a lot of bases rather than thinking through each facet of their functionality.
It is therefore very interesting to see a new Swedish company called Dexplora get involved in enterprise user interface design, starting with an app called GetSalesDone that aims to be a more attractive and functional front-end for CRM systems such as Salesforce(s crm) than the apps put out by those vendors themselves. Why so interesting? Because these people have serious heritage.
Dexplora’s founders were after all behind The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), the firm that licensed user interface (UI) software to handset manufacturers from Nokia(s nok) to Samsung – and shaped early iterations of the Android UI – before being bought by RIM(s bbry) a couple years ago. And, according to co-founder Hampus Jakobsson, it was during the TAT days that they spotted an opportunity in the enterprise sector.
“When we came to use CRM systems at TAT, we were shocked they were designed for management, not for the users,” Jakobsson said. “It struck us that it’s the same thing we felt in the mobile world, that software was designed for internal use, not for humans.”
Jakobsson maintains that salespeople hate using Salesforce’s front-end, even the whizz-bang HTML5-based Salesforce Touch apps that came out last September. The Dexplora founders considered developing their own CRM system, but blanched at the thought of competing with the hundreds that are already out there. Still, they saw an opportunity in the “abysmal” UIs of market leaders from Salesforce to SAP(s saP) and SugarCRM, realizing that the problem here was more than cosmetic:
“If the salespeople don’t love it and don’t use it, their reports get worthless. Most people told us they put stuff into the CRM system just before the weekend or just before a meeting, and doing it last-minute means the quality is really low, so the forecasting is really bad. It’s dirty data, and we came to the conclusion that that needs to be fixed at the source.”
So they built GetSalesDone – not a CRM system in itself, but rather an easier way to use the existing market leaders. The first iteration is an iPhone app for using Salesforce’s CRM product. The app, which uses the same APIs that Salesforce does for its own mobile apps, isn’t just (arguably) prettier than Salesforce’s own effort; it also adds new features, such as the ability to generate tasks with full context.
There will also be future versions for the others, in each case trying to fill in the deficiencies of the existing platform – better overviews for users of Microsoft(s msft) Dynamics CRM, for example. To get a flavor of what the Salesforce version is all about though, here’s a handy video:
How does Salesforce feel about this? “We have a dialog with Salesforce — we feel that they like us,” Jakobsson told me, pointing out that Salesforce has a platform strategy that might make them not so worried about users consciously interacting with the platform, as long that they’re using it.
Apple(s aapl) gave the go-ahead this morning to launch the app, and Dexplora will do so in around a week’s time. GetSalesDone will be free for salespeople to pick up and use, and the firm will make its money doing customizations for specific enterprises.