What Does Yahoo's New Look Tell Us About the Future of Enterprise Applications?

As a long time Yahoo user -- I don't have much of a choice because of their JV with my ISP -- I was interested to learn more about their latest announcement this morning trumpeting a new user experience and interface. And what I discovered began to expand my thinking a bit about how procurement and supply chain applications will be designed in the future. But first the news.

According to BBC's take on the announcement, "Consumers in the US are the first to benefit from a new, customizable format which lets them link to third parties like Google and Twitter ... The key is personalization and the biggest change involves a bar on the left hand side of the page, called "My Favorites". Here, users can customise links to Yahoo and other services they use the most from news to social networks to email to movies ... While there are over 60 of these applications at the moment, consumers can add their own by typing in web addresses. There are also plans to allow other software developers to design their own, more sophisticated applications that people can add."

Of course the proof will be in the execution and uptake -- as it is with all consumer web applications -- but I suspect that the capacity to read your mail and newsfeeds and then pivot to Twitter and Facebook -- not to mention other mashable applications -- will prove quite appealing to many. I can tell you it already has for me.

But what does this herald for the future of enterprise procurement and supply chain applications? Quite a bit, in fact. For one, we're going to see significantly more flexible and user-definable interfaces in the future that go beyond lip-service (i.e., this report or that requisition). Rather, future interfaces will truly be flexible in regards to integrating not just alerts, reports and feeds, but other valuable information sources as well, coming from suppliers or third-party systems. But even more interesting to me is the integration of unstructured data (e.g., business-driven social networking commentary) into an application interface environment. Coupa, an eProcurement provider, is already doing this, letting users tweet their RFQs, among other capabilities.

In the not so distant future, I suspect we'll see tighter and tighter integration at the interface level between functional capabilities without the need to access the underlying applications. Ariba gets this today with their new SIM capability. Some within SAP know they ultimately need to go there to create the killer requisitioning app by merging the capabilities of SRM with ERP procurement, perhaps into a single capability that is core to ERP rather than a stand alone business application module.

Still, at this stage, I'll be thrilled to take relatively seamless Twitter and Facebook integration along with my regular personal and enterprise portal. But this too, will need to evolve into something more advanced. And in this regard, look for true underlying platforms and standards (e.g., Twitter) rather than consumer applications like Facebook to lead the charge in transforming the future of enterprise application information sharing, application access and collaboration -- with a healthy dose of friendly UIs and a semantic layer slapped on top for navigation and information access.

Jason Busch

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