“Self Provisioning” — the guerilla assault on enterprise IT picks up steam

 “Self-provisioning” is the enterprise IT manager’s description for services that users can select, install, configure and use all by themselves.

The name reeks of corporate-speak, but the impact is all startup. Combine “self-provisioning” with…

No contract / low monthly pricing — so no procurement officer has to bless it, and…

 – User-centered design — so no help desk staffer gets called to support it

… and you have the makings of a full-fledged assault on the traditional enterprise software market.

This isn’t a new idea. Before anyone was talking about “cloud computing” or “SaaS” Salesforce created a billion-dollar enterprise software business by renting simple, web-based CRM tools to individual salespeople at $25 a month.

While traditional enterprise IT vendors attacked from the top-down — with expensive sales teams and executive golf junkets — Salesforce infiltrated customers from the bottom up: single-user adoption led to teams, then workgroups, and ultimately to enterprise-wide adoption.

What’s changed in the last few years is the convergence of Salesforce-style self-provisioning with the dual assaults of agile / lean startup methods (building software products quickly / at low cost) and social media / content / inbound marketing (acquiring customers cheaply through search and word of mouth).

Together, these forces are radically reducing the costs of building an enterprise software company — making it possible for small, lightly-financed teams to attack opportunities that were once limited to massive VC-backed players.

We absolutely love this theme and are watching it play out all over the Founders Co-op portfolio:

  • In Business Intelligence / Analytics, Simply Measured turns social media marketers into data-powered quant jocks, stitching together multiple real-time data sources into beautiful visualizations of business insights. No database. No custom reporting request to IT. No technical expertise required.

  • In Digital Marketing, Unbounce lets online marketers create, publish, test and analyze beautiful landing pages for their campaigns with no coding and no IT support. And Smore (still in private beta) makes it effortless for anyone to create, publish, promote and analyze beautiful “online flyers” for their business.

  • In Digital / Education Publishing, Highlighter turns any professor into a digital textbook publisher — with one-click publishing, collaborative social highlighting and commenting, and analytics dashboards to track student engagement — all entirely for free. 

  • In Enterprise Productivity, Thinkfuse (still in private beta) turns the dreaded weekly status report into a social collaboration tool (at the workgroup level) and business intelligence platform (at the enterprise level).
We didn’t set out to be enterprise software investors — and we shudder when we see ideas that require armies of bag-carrying field sales reps — but we love companies that actually make money, and enterprise IT is still a great place to do that.