I found this very interesting article in ReadWriteWeb about the recent findings of a survey pointing out that most software success can be demonstrated by user adoption. In other words, the more people you have using your software, the more successful it is. No doubt it is, but only if it's an open system available on the Internet for public use. However, when you pass through the corporate firewall and start evaluating software success for the business, it is a completely different issue.
Here are my comments:
This is very tricky, and I tell you why.
You've got to be careful when you use broad meaning vage terms like "success" and "adoption". Maybe the survey document brings clarification on each one them. And if it does, please bare with me as I didn't read it.
We are talking about Enterprise Software here, not open systems anyone can access to the benefit of their own. Enterprise Software is only justifiable by a strong numeric rationale that proves favorable ROI. ROI for the business, not for IT. This means more _________ (sales, revenue, profit, customer retention etc).
Let's take an easy example: Lotus Notes. As being a groupware application it had 100% adoption on the enterprise. Or do you think people would deny using it and work without email and shared calendars? No way. So it was remarkably popular, but not necessarily successful for the business. It was expensive to buy/maintain, hard to use, harder to customize, ran on proprietary technology etc. MS Exchange, on the other hand, was less expensive, easier to implement and use. Adoption? Well, again, 100% of course, but now with a leaner less expensive operation and happier users that don't have to call support as often.
In short, by taking the assumptions of the article both groupware solutions were successful (100% adoption in the enterprise), when in fact ROI for the business in each case demonstrated to be very different.