Making enterprise software that people can actually use

Software is opinionated. This is natural: it’s made by real people, who have opinions, to tackle problems that they think they can solve using a particular line of thought. All of the best software packages – from Lotus 1-2-3 all the way down to Gmail and node.js – have been created with a strong opinion about how their particular problems should be solved.

The same goes for latakoo. Here are some opinions that we had while we were building it: Moving video is too hard. You shouldn’t have to post your content publicly to host it in the cloud. Web applications are the future of user interface design. Video professionals deserve better management tools.

Here’s another opinion: Enterprise software shouldn’t try and radically change the way people work.

“What?!” might be a developer’s reply. “Then how are we supposed to innovate?”

Here’s the thing, though. Enterprise organizations are large, and immediately changing their existing workflows often carries with it a massive real cost, on top of the price you’re charging for your service. That comes in training, support and maintenance, even when you’re dealing with a cloud application where they don’t have to actually install anything on their servers. If their workflow is essential to the running of their organization – which is a smart place to start when you’re building an enterprise software business – then any loss of productivity along it will put them at risk. No manager will agree to that.

So, you need to look at those workflows and augment them. You’re finding ways to supercharge those workflows, not replace them with something that you consider to be more efficient. For one thing, remember, you’re opinionated: no developer is an objective source. But for another, you’ll never understand the intricacies of their business as well as they do.

An example: at latakoo, we let people send video fast using our desktop and mobile apps, and then manage it privately using our web service. But some of our enterprise customers already have their own, sometimes very costly, media management solutions. We could make a case for replacing those solutions entirely. latakoo’s features would certainly support that. But it’s more meaningful for those customers to use the fast sending app, and synchronize their video from latakoo’s infrastructure to their own, automatically.

Of course, we chose to support this. So our enterprise customers can request that video is sent to their existing infrastructure on upload via tools like rsync, SFTP, Signiant, and so on. Over time, some of them may wish to migrate to using our web service – and we still keep a copy of their video there, so it’s always available to them. This turns out to be really useful for television journalists out in the field, who need to access old video but don’t have a secure connection to their company’s servers. It’s also good for when content companies wish to accept or collaborate on video with outside contributors without having to create local accounts for them. In these situations, latakoo acts as a kind of DMZ, and it works well. But there’s no need for those customers to use these features if they don’t need them.

The result is that latakoo enterprise customers often see a 9x return on investment, through time savings while using both the app and the web-based management service where appropriate, and their own tools and infrastructure when they need to. We’re opinionated developers, and our opinion was, we can make better video management software. But our opinion that software should be useful from day one rode out. And that meant reigning ourselves in, and understanding that the customer knows more about how they work than we do.

Words by Ben Werdmuller. 

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