One of the more unfortunate words that prevails in the software industry is “user.” “User” marginalizes the importance of people, and subconsciously implies that we should simply use the software in the way it’s presented to us without question. It makes it seem as if people should adapt to a vendor’s terminology, data model, and workflow. In reality, it should be the other way around: Software should enable people to communicate and collaborate with each other, share knowledge, make informed decisions, and get our jobs done faster and more efficiently than ever before, in a model that makes sense to them.
I’ve only found two industries who describe their customers as “users”. One is high tech, and the other is drug dealers.
We have even evolved highly specialized disciplines whose monikers involve the word “user” – “user interface” or “user experience.” Worse, the science of “user interface” has historically been called “human factors” – where we’re now describing “humans” as organic life form alternatives to the preferably predictable and “error-proof” silicon powering the machines we force users to adapt to.
In reality, business is conducted by people, not users. People introduce themselves by job title or organizational affiliation. They have passions and expertise, and like to share knowledge with the teams and groups they’re on. Almost no one describes themselves as “an Oracle user”.,
Socialtext has always focused on reaching out to business people first – which fits hand in glove with our all-SaaS business model (as opposed to selling big perpetual license deals to IT who then try to stimulate adoption with users). Our whole company is aligned around the priority of enabling our customers to achieve business value, not just adoption. That starts first with designing and delivering functionality that enables customers to answer more substantial questions (such as “who knows what” or “who knows who knows what”, not just “who knows who”). Our entire sales and marketing methodology emphasizes the importance of identifying business champions (see Michael Idinopulos’ excellent post “How to Find Enterprise 2.0 Champions”), and partnering with our customers throughout their implementation to ensure they are realizing business results. We continually adapt and innovate product enhancements based on their feedback.
Business people feel proud of business results they achieve by being part of something bigger than them – and usually by being part of a team that made it happen. Software should adapt to these people and their needs.