What Software Developers Get Wrong About Enterprise Users

For the past few years, I’ve been working in an enterprise computing environment that has both striking similarities and dissimilarities from the open source freelance and the academic institutional environments. I’ve been frustrated a number of times by products that either haven’t thought about their enterprise users or, perhaps, don’t care.

So, how is the enterprise different?

  • Enterprise users often aren’t allowed to login to Google or Facebook. Any authentication scheme in your product that requires these tie-ins is a non-starter.
  • Enterprise users often can’t setup an account with every product provider. That is, leaking information from the enterprise network by filling out your new user form is not acceptable.
  • Two factor authentication via SMS… many enterprise users don’t have an SMS-capable phone issued to them for work and crisscrossing business use with personal devices is a no-no.
  • Enterprise users often don’t have the choice to openly share their work with the world. If your product requires pushing to public repositories, we can’t use it.
  • Your one-click solution for publishing to the open web… it’s lovely, but unusable by many enterprise users. However, if the end user could choose where that publish goes—say, to an inside-the-firewall enterprise server or even simply to a network shared drive—that would be extremely useful.
  • Enterprise networks often use custom SSL certificate authorities to allow them to perform packet inspection at the enterprise boundary. To many products and websites, this looks like a man-in-the-middle attack—which it is. Enterprise end users don’t have a choice.
  • Enterprise users can’t legally sign your EULA or terms of service on behalf of the company. My assent is worthless and could get me fired.
  • Some enterprise users are 501c3 or Government users. Are your terms of use clear about whether your product is free-to-use for these users, who incidentally have no authority to pay for your product?
  • Even when an enterprise user could pay for your product, they often can’t pay by credit card or paypal or bitcoin. What options do you afford them to do business with you?

You’re creating good products and services that users want to use—often in the public interest and to try to make the world a better place. How can we find a way to do that that doesn’t leak information from the enterprise and keeps you in business?