Let's face it, before apps, software generally sucked. Business development teams battled engineering teams internally to add every feature prospective customers could imagine so they could close the deal, making UX confusing and complex.
Then apps happened.
Simple and connectable start to rule
Unlike their bloated predecessors, apps typically attempted to solve a single or narrowly defined set of problems with beautiful design and UX in mind from day one. Add to this a healthy dose of "keep it simple stupid" obsession and a revolution was born. Users actually could find and start using software to solve problems without needing a PhD or Implementation team, usually within a few minutes. As the list of apps and problems solved blossomed into thousands, hundreds of thousands, then millions, the possibilities for the problems you could solve with apps became seemingly endless.
The natural progressive, of course, was to make it easier for apps to work together to solve more problems, maintaining their own unique UX and personality along the way. At first, people handled this through direct integrations via API, but now it's evolved to using 3rd party integration hubs like Zapier, which makes it possible to connect with hundreds of apps in just a few clicks.
Uncomplicated, linkable apps have helped foster the workforce revolution that's driving millions towards the freedom of side gigs, solopreneurisim (yes, made up a new word) and working in micro-teams. They make it possible to do things in a few minutes that practically required brain surgery before. Basic capabilities like marketing assets, scheduling tools, transaction capabilities, and client data which could take months to assemble before, now can be assembled and set up over a few lattes or micro-brews.
But no, business utility software is not dead
Now that we've embraced an app-rich world, it's starting to become clear that we're actually making a full circle. Apps haven't replaced the sensibility of using software platforms to efficiently run a business. They've just massively elevated the UX expectations to the benefit of all mankind. Think about it. Integration platforms would not be possible if business utility users didn't need these things to work seamlessly together.
That said, since success and survival as a solopreneur depends on efficiency, cobbling together a mess of single function apps is not an option that makes much sense long term. In fact, as the workforce evolution drives more and more people away from the corporate gig, there is arguably a bigger need than ever before brewing.
Justin Shelby, founder and CEO of Artichoke, an all-in-one business platform for solopreneurs and micro-teams, says that,
"Solopreneurs, freelancers, and micro-teams don't just exist in the communities anymore. They include occupations across the spectrum, many of which didn't even exist during the last census--traditional careers like wellness practitioners and educators, exploding categories like home health, and completely new professions like digital media buyers."
The practical vision of the future
The need solopreneurs and micro-teams increasingly have for multifunction software will create opportunities for several solutions to emerge that are designed and built with the UX of single function apps, yet which also are customizable and have the core sensibility of a feature set that does most of what you need daily.
Artichoke founder, Shelby, added,
"As we consume and interpret daily user feedback, two realities emerge. First, users seek and demand simplicity. Second, there is a core set of functionality which spans across multiple occupations which, if optimized, has a dramatic impact on income. As the novelty of solutions like mobile payment gateways and scheduling apps fade, it's increasingly important to provide platforms which solve more than one problem out of the box."
According to Jed Heneberry, Director of Marketing and Member Relations for Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP),
"Independent practitioners don't just wear many hats, they wear all of the hats. It's important that they operate very efficiently, leveraging fewer resources to cover all of the business and marketing bases so they can maximize their hands-on time and find success."
Software and apps no longer will be bundled into dated categories of the past like CRM, ERP, or any other industry jargon that constrains what features "should be" matched with other features. This next generation of software and apps will be part of a new ecosystem driven by the needs of the new workers who care less about what it's called than how it makes running your own show, with little to no help, possible.
So close, yet so far?
Clearly, we're headed toward platforms that meld the best of the all-in-one and niche app worlds. But in many ways, there's still more data to gather. We've only just begun to grasp much of what's happening in the workforce, and until we have a clearer picture of business needs and interconnections, it's difficult to predict all the ways in which these new applications could be put to use and the full effect their availability will have on the bottom line.
But one thing is for sure. The idea that you have to settle for one-size-fits all, work for the man and follow a path that's not your own is fast becoming obsolete.