I've lived in a B2B world my entire career. Sure, some of the products manufactured by my employers end up in the hands of consumers, but my positions were always focused on the enterprise. My concerns were always about how business would deploy and utilize products. My interest was and continues to be how to deliver solutions that solve a business challenge. In the past, many of the technologies developed for business, were adapted for consumer use.
However, we've moved past a key tipping point where consumer behavior is actively influencing enterprise solutions. I don't mean their buying behavior. I mean the dramatic shift in how we as individuals share and consume content. Social networks evolved as consumer centric platforms to connect students and friends. Each new social network that emerges is focused on what millennials and Generation Z want to share. Is it text, images, video? Where and how do they want to share it? Are they concerned about privacy? Yes? No?
As each social platform emerges (hello Meerkat!), we are exposed to yet another method of communicating. For businesses, the lesson is to understand which of these methods makes sense given their productions and solutions, and most importantly, the needs and behaviors of their audience. Landor predicts 2015 as the year that B2B trumps B2C in social media. In what year will the volume of B2B apps surpass B2C apps?
Enterprise applications, such as CRM or ERP, are all under the gun to become apps. The difference being in how users interface with these enterprise critical applications. New businesses are emerging that offer these functionalities and others as apps. They must be accessible on the employee device of choice (BYOD, yet another sign of the consumer impact on the enterprise) and provide the required information on demand, while also allowing for content upload.
If you think this it is crazy that a consumer centric solution can change enterprise behavior, look at how hiring and recruiting models are being turned on their heads thanks to LinkedIn. Or, how Salesforce.com differentiated itself with integrations to Facebook and Twitter and then incorporated social monitoring and sharing.
I've heard arguments that these consumer inspired tools are not relevant. I've heard the statement "oh, i don't need to worry about that - i work in an office." But I will hazard a guess that even with many of the big tech companies pulling employees back into the office, the demand for ease of use, ease of access and ease of sharing, will not dissipate. If you want to know the future of how corporate america will function, pay attention to consumer trends!