It’s fairly well understood at this point that performance is a critical aspect of building for the web. Better performance typically means better results (for whatever you’re trying to get people to do.) E-commerce transactions go up. Sign-up conversions go up. And so on.
The same holds true with B2B / enterprise software. People will overlook all kinds of product and feature limitations if performance is amazing. Part of the reason is that they’re able to more quickly create & discover workarounds that they’re willing to live with, in exchange for top notch performance. I’m more willing to change my behaviour, adjust how I work, or lower my product expectations if performance is fantastic. When performance is bad, every workaround or product limitation is magnified many times over.
Recently I was involved in a product purchasing decision. I won’t name names (it doesn’t matter.) One product had limited features for what I was looking to do (in part because it’s a “generalist” product and not a “specialized” product — perhaps a debate for another time), while the other was specialized for my needs (vertically-focused). We first went to the specialized product, but then moved to the generalist product (because the product breadth was wider.) As we used the generalist product, we talked through and experimented with different workarounds to address the product’s limitations. It wasn’t a big deal initially, every product has limitations and fitting them into your existing processes and workflow requires some massaging. But after a couple days, we went back to the specialized product.
The specialized product provides more functionality as well – which is handy – but more importantly, it’s fast. Working within the product is a joy vs. frustration, and it makes it easier for me to encourage use of the product amongst other team members as well. At one point someone suggested using Google Spreadsheets. Why? It’s fast. We knew Google Spreadsheets wouldn’t scale, and we didn’t really want to use it, but it’s easy, convenient and fast.
It’s also important to note that the specialized product is more expensive than the one we abandoned (~5x more expensive). Cost was never part of our decision-making process, except initially when we thought we could use the generalized product for more things (instead of going vertical.) And we would have, if performance had been there.
The importance of performance for B2B software and enterprise applications is only going to increase.
With a bigger move to mobile devices (especially in the enterprise), people want all the power and functionality in the palm of their hand. Performance has a huge impact on uptake (which is always challenging in the enterprise) and long-term adoption. People will “suffer” a lack of features if they can still get things done quickly.