IBM and Oracle Should Rip These Pages From Apple's Playbook

What can enterprise software giants such as Oracle and IBM learn from consumer-product specialists such as Apple ? Plenty, according to TIBCO Software COO Murray Rode.

TIBCO COO Murray Rode, as seen in a TUCON-related interview on YouTube.

I spoke to Rode at last week's TUCON conference, and the conversation turned to TIBCO's R&D focus. The company is known for its solid engineering core, producing high-speed data analysis tools that IBM and Oracle have been trying to copy for years without much success. But as it turns out, a high-performance product isn't enough these days. Rode explained that a newfound focus on user-friendly interfaces has unlocked whole new vistas for TIBCO.

"How do you decide whether to spend more R&D dollars on the user experience versus the core engine?" he mused. "The reality is, we have to do both. Today, you have to have a product that's both usable and, we think, high-performance."

In other words, a touch of Apple's usability focus can do wonders for the incredibly complex products that are sold as enterprise-grade business tools. "How do you make your products easier to install, easier to manage, easier to use? How do you create a more engaging customer experience for the developer or the user of our products?" These are the new questions on Murray Rode's mind.

If that doesn't sound like a touch of Apple inspiration, I don't know what is. That's exactly how Apple converts customers to raving fans -- make it simple, make it engaging, make it indispensable.

What the competition can learn from Murray Rode
IBM's WebSphere suite is a fantastically powerful set of tools, but it was never easy to understand. Oracle's product catalog is even more complicated, cobbled together from a long series of big-ticket acquisitions. TIBCO currently wins a lot of its head-to-head bids against both companies thanks to the combination of high power and relatively simple operation. There's still more work to do, of course, but TIBCO has a usability head start on the competition.

TIBCO still places a heavy emphasis on quality engineering, but Rode must strike a balance between that and user interfaces when working out budgets and manpower schedules.

"I think we're gonna have to continue to kind of strike a balance between the two," he said. Oracle and IBM would be also well advised to pay more attention to these questions.

TIBCO isn't the only tech company riding this strategy
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Fool contributor Anders Bylund owns shares of TIBCO Software. Check out Anders' bio and holdings or follow him on Twitter and Google+.The Motley Fool recommends Apple and TIBCO Software and owns shares of Apple, IBM, and Oracle.. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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