Sapho makes bad enterprise software better

I’m a perennial commentator on the horrendous state of enterprise software. Sapho is one of the hero companies trying to resolve the myriad issues.

Sapho makes bad enterprise software better
Credit: Thinkstock

I’ve written a number of times about a class of software vendors that, in my view, are doing a heroic job. While these vendors aren’t philanthropists, they may as well be, helping millions of frustrated users of enterprise software worldwide reduce the pain they feel on a daily basis.

You see, for anyone who is in the fortunate situation of not having to interact with enterprise software on a daily basis, your own interactions with consumer software on your mobile device might have lulled you into a false sense of security.

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The reality is enterprise software, to put it bluntly, sucks. I’m self-employed and have never worked within a large corporation, but I’ve done enough consulting within these sorts of organizations to have gained a reasonably good appreciation for just how bad these solutions are. Horrible user interfaces, difficult user experiences, generally desktop-bound, slow and inflexible—there is very little to say about traditional enterprise software that is good. And I’m not just talking about the one of two enterprise software vendors who normally bear the brunt of these criticisms. Every traditional player is, in my view, guilty of similar user un-centered behavior.

That is why Sapho and its ilk are such a breath of fresh air. Sapho’s platform is pretty simple conceptually: it connects to traditional on-premises enterprise systems and wraps those systems with an interface layer that is mobile-ready, flexible, extensible and pretty much the antithesis of what enterprise systems are meant to be like.

While many people suggest that truly delivering agility and innovation to traditional organizations requires more than a simple wrapper of mobile enablement, the fact of the matter is that an approach that sees core systems left in place, but mobilized and made more flexible, while greenfield opportunities are fulfilled by new platforms and architectures, does make sense.

I’m loathe to anoint Gartner's “bi-modal IT” as a suggested model. I’m dubious about such proclamations from on-high, but for a number of organizations with existing solutions in place, it’s an approach that works. The Sapho idea of creating “micro apps”—point solutions for particular workflows and contexts—resonates with me. And Sapho CEO and co-founderFouad ElNaggar justifies its existence well:

“While today’s enterprise systems of record are great at storing and manipulating data, they are not great at presenting that data and associated workflows back to employees in an easy-to-use way. While current systems of record have rock-solid back ends, if employees hate the front end and refuse to use them, the systems themselves become useless for a majority of workers. This is why a new system of engagement is needed—one that sits on top of Systems of Record and aggregates data and tasks and delivers it to employees.

"Sapho is this new system of engagement: It provides employees a modern portal experience with the personalized information and tasks they need to improve their productivity and effectiveness. Employees love it because Sapho makes work as easy as using Facebook, and IT departments love it because it works with the existing systems they know how to maintain and manage. For our customers, this means major productivity gains from their IT investments, which have already been depreciated on their balance sheets.”

Sapho receives $14 million in Series B funding

As it does, it would seem, with investors. The company today announced a $14 million Series B funding round led by Caffeinated Capital (a well-named funder given Sapho’s focus, I’d say). In addition to Caffeinated Capital, new investor Felicis Ventures joins the round with expanded investments from Alsop Louie Partners, SoftTech VC, Morado Ventures, AME Cloud, and Bloomberg Beta.

This funding comes on the heels of positive momentum for Sapho since its launch in June 2016. The company saw 320 percent revenue growth and 200 percent customer growth in 2016, and in 2017 it has completed integrations with companies such as Microsoft and IBM to further modernize the workplace for enterprise customers. And the customers seems to be similarly bullish. Brian Below, president of Light Building Products at Boral Industries, one of the world’s largest building and construction materials manufacturers, says:

“Before Sapho, our workforce was not getting enough value out of our existing enterprise systems, even though these systems had the information they needed to successfully engage new prospects and close new business. Now, we use Sapho to provide our sales teams with a single, simple interface that pushes workflows to them on any device while also allowing them to access all of their system data and tasks.

"The results have been awesome: Sapho has enabled us to drive our weekly software utilization to over 90 percent, and furthermore, pushing important information and tasks to our team has decreased our sales cycle and increased conversion rates while also reducing load on our IT department.”

The investment is interesting, but it's far less important than what Sapho is doing and the market opportunity it fulfills.

Sapho isn't alone in this space. Capriza is a similar third-party vendor, and the legacy vendors (think Oracle, SAP and others) are trying to create friendly solutions of this style as well.

One thing is sure: The days of horrendous enterprise software will go on, but an increasing number of options will exist to hide that pain from the end users.

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