When purchasing decisions involve heterodox interests, sales difficulties increase exponentially. A perfect example is enterprise Gmail. Gmail is undeniably a better-designed email product than most companies use, but Google butted up against unanticipated resistance when selling Gmail to enterprises. It turns out that enterprise purchasing decisions are far more complex than a single users.
The IT guy at my work and I talk often about what it would take to move our firm from Lotus to Gmail (consensus: an act of god). He pointed me to this article from CIO: Why Enterprises Are Moving to Google Apps, Gmail. Here’s what I found most interesting:
Perhaps most significantly, at a Google Apps CIO roundtable event in San Francisco this week, Google announced that enterprise users of Google Apps could access Gmail through an Outlook client. The company hopes it will quell the protests by users who have become tethered to the desktop app and who, as a result, have sometimes hindered enterprise adoption of Google Apps.
“For me, it eliminates the last hurdle or mindset for letting go of [Microsoft] Exchange or the Exchange mentality,” said Bob Rudy, vice president and CIO of Avago, a semiconductor company that moved its employees over to Google Apps, during the event. “This will help with adoption.”
It turns out that people don’t necessarily want better email (at least not in the sense that Google initially thought). Sometimes they just want a better version of their current user experience. Sometimes they even want something you never even imagined could be important. From the consistently excellent IgnoretheCode (aka, Lukas Mathis):
If your users reject an improved user interface, you need to start out by figuring out exactly what motivates them to prefer the more complex solution.
Of course, there’s more at issue here than UI, but the general point remains. When people reject an objectively better solution (at least in your eyes), you better find out why.