Enterprise Software: Emergency Apps and Empathy

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I was talking to a vendor exec last week and I mentioned the agility and innovation I am seeing in various sectors – agile manufacturing, re-jigged supply chains, reshaped shopping experiences, last-mile delivery, telework, telemedicine, teleschool- as we are fighting the COVID-19 war. Examples are herehere and here.

He turned around and showed me under NDA in our Zoom session the impact and innovations they are cataloging in their B2C and B2B customers. I am willing to bet their R&D team is already factoring them for their next-gen vertical apps. I have had similar conversations with other software and SI execs. Most are taking similar notes but are not ready yet to publicly talk about them. Two reasons – One, they don’t want to come across as bragging in this traumatic phase. Second, it will provide them or their customers competitive advantage and they will discuss their plans when and if they are ready.

However, many of them have publicly shared what they are doing. The common thread is most of these are timely and they show empathy.

In an analyst briefing yesterday, Bill McDermott, CEO of ServiceNow talked about the incident management structure to lead the outbreak response they developed with the State of Washington, which was the first US “hot spot” for the outbreak. They have since released emergency response apps – for outreach, employee self-reporting and exposure tracking. They are offering them free through September 30 to other public health entities.

Plex has been presenting dashboards on the impact on global supply chains. It has 20 years of anonymized, compiled operational data from the approximately 700 manufacturers on its software. This group collectively runs 1,200 active production facilities in 29 countries, representing the aerospace, automotive, fabricated metals, food and beverage, industrial machinery, and plastics and rubber industries. I will have more from the CTO, Jerry Foster. Here is a graph on their China dataset. They have others for Italy, the US and other markets here.

Plex COVID data set

Zoho has been helping the work-at-home economy by offering 11 of its apps free (see video below) till July 1. The Remotely free offer started in early March and they already have over 15,000 businesses availing of it. They are also offering existing customers with up to 25 employees a 3 month fee waiver. Details here. They also have a live global dashboard for COVID-19 case tracking.   I am planning an interview with the CEO, Sridhar Vembu – he always has such a positive world view.

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Every day, we are hearing of massive dislocations in supply chains – shortages of certain products in one area, plenty of supply of the product elsewhere. SAP has opened up access to Ariba Discovery for free for 90 days so any buyer can post their immediate sourcing needs and any supplier can respond to show they can deliver. SAP has also opened up other workforce and program management apps as detailed here

Salesforce has launched its Care package (see video) free for 90 days for up to 10 licenses.  Its Tableau unit has various COVID-19 related visualizations.

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Plenty of empathy

I have been impressed with the empathy software vendors have been showing to their customers and employees.

Workday has sent two-weeks additional pay for the majority of employees to help accommodate any unforeseen costs and needs at their discretion. It has also opened up a year’s access to Headspace, a research-backed app that offers meditations on everything from stress and anxiety to focus and sleep.

Alex Shootman, CEO of Workfront, who is an impressive executive and human wrote a really inspirational blog post about resilience in demanding times.

“I’ve always believed that great leadership is forged in the crucible of adversity, but great leaders are those who respond with empathy and vulnerability even when making the toughest decisions. We all need reserves of determination and positivity at precisely the moments those qualities are stretched thin. Where do those reserves come from? In my book, Done Right, I explored a number of ways to build resilience.”

Read more here. I have an interview planned for more of his guidance.

Salesforce has paused all customer outreach including requests for customer references for analyst evaluations. I listened to a SuccessFactors analyst briefing last week and was struck by how little bragging there was about recent competitive wins. I also listened to several SAP vertical industry webinars. Peter Maeir, who is President of SAP Industries, somewhat humbly opened each with a statement that SAP had considered canceling or postponing them. I had a chance to tell him I am glad SAP ran them. We have to keep going – our sector has to keep the lights on while businesses scramble to change their priorities.

I heard someone say the medical profession and pharma sector have a chance to come out shining from this crisis after years of brand damage from price gouging and other negative stories. You can already see the adulation for front-line medical professionals around the world.

Enterprise software has a similar opportunity. I am proud of what enterprise software vendors are doing during this crazy phase. I will be even prouder if they learn from the agility of their customers and reshape their offerings. No industry sector will come out of this unscathed. Industry-specific agility and innovation will be at a premium. Bureaucracy, huge price tags and compliance functionality much less so.

It will open up all kinds of opportunities to rethink enterprise software as the economy turns around. For now, I look forward to cataloging all the positive stuff software vendors are doing.

(Cross-posted @ Deal Architect)

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