‘Consumerization of the Enterprise’ – is a term that is quickly gaining traction in the industry. But what does it mean and why, more importantly, does it matter?
It has become a banner for topics as far reaching as BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), hardware procurement policy, right through to user and application UI expectations.
So how can due consideration be given to the consumer space drive adoption of enterprise applications? What lessons can be learnt from the likes of the ‘Big Four’ (Amazon, e-bay, Facebook and Google)?
These giants have invested significantly in user experience, a ‘no training’ approach to feature design, and an understanding of how consumers are now using different devices. They’ve tried and tested hundreds of design patterns, looked at what really drives engagement and how people interact with applications. They’ve realized that an ever increasing number of users want simple and immediate access to content from anywhere at any time on any device.
In the enterprise it’s clear our users (spoilt by their experience with these consumer platforms) have now come to expect the same level of ease, usability and design in business applications. Evidence shows engagement and interaction with multiple systems with cumbersome UI’s is falling at ever increasing levels. User satisfaction is at an all time low.
So shouldn’t business leaders and Enterprise architects be taking notice? Isn’t it time to start applying the same principles to our business applications - aiming to treat users as almost individual consumer customers?
The likely problem in your enterprise….
Right now you probably have a veritable smorgasbord of applications that together comprise your enterprise landscape. You’ve likely invested significantly and followed every bit of advice on which solutions to utilize. Yet users are struggling to engage, adoption is poor and too many people are complaining.
We’ve all seen the scenarios whereby valuable content is being shared via email because it’s simply easier to just ask a colleague. We all know the pain of people using offline spreadsheets when they really should be updating CRM.
The problem here (other than the obvious lack of structure and control) is the reliance in the inherent knowledge of the select few who know where to look or how to use these systems. There is a lack of consistency, a community that isn’t fully engaged which in turn leads to a loss of valuable knowledge, wasted time and missed opportunities.
But don’t worry, you invested significantly and purchased the right software (according to all the industry knowledge). So it must be the users who are wrong? Maybe if you find a way to enforce their use of the applications the problem would be solved?
Well we know the answer to that!
As any VP of Sales will tell you a team doesn’t work with systems unless they get something valuable back. And even if you can force your employees to use your tools you simply can’t make your partners and customers do the same.
So why aren’t your consumers engaging?
Let’s remember who your consumers are. They are you and I, working professionals, normal ‘non-techy’ people who come into work every day and face pressures of deadlines, quotas, service level agreements, KPIs and the rest.
They have enough to deal with without the need to learn complex systems - systems they are told “support” their role.They don’t understand advanced CRM configuration, why they have to search for the same content in three places, let alone how to perform a Boolean search! Is it a surprise that consumption and adoption of corporate content is poor throughout the ecosystem?
Taking a step back it seems folly to drive users to engage with complex applications and actually expecting them to do this of their own free will.
So how do you engage them? How do you get them to consume your content, maintain your data and be an integrated and active part of your community?
The answer is actually quite simple
Look at what users are confident with in their personal lives. 90% of us are consuming content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+Amazon etc. - performing detailed searches, buying products, creating saved searches,updating profiles and more. These are pretty advanced functions yet we engage with these services daily on all our devices.
Why? Not because we are being forced to. We do it because we get something back, good or great value for very little effort. We are a generation who doesn’t have time for delayed gratification - we want what we need and we want it now. Wait for 2 minutes whilst your application logs in or loads? Please, I don’t have time for this; now or I’m off!
It’s about time B2B learnt from the Consumer space; people now expect simple and common user experiences which well work across all platforms and devices. They’ve been spoilt and now they’re coming into work expecting the same. It’s time to change; time to start giving them all they want in your ecosystem and not (unsuccessfully) forcing them to use applications that work for you not them.
So where do we go from here?
To begin with lets be clear on one thing. There is huge value in your existing enterprise content and you probably have most of the right end point applications. Even in-house mission critical systems are probably doing a great job in isolation.
Now reimagine your enterprise landscape as a variety of Apps (yes, even that legacy in-house system). Each App focuses on its own strengths and is delivered by a specialist supplier. Many are Cloud based with open API’s and integration methodologies. Some may be old - built internally with no web services.
Now let’s put something at the center of all of these Apps and the content they contain. Let’s build a brain that can intelligently understand content from different sources yet offers incredibly simple user features on all devices. And crucially let’s do this with an understanding of the Context - delivery of what the user wants, when they want it based on what they are doing at the time.
What I’m describing is a consumer like platform for the enterprise, but more than that; the simplicity of the Amazon search model, the speed and self-service of Google+, the best practice of advanced UI design across all devices - something that really works and makes sense to your users. Something that can take valuable content, whether it be a whitepaper,video, Salesforce lead or sales playbook and put it in the hands of the right person at the right time wherever they are.
If you can learn the lessons of the consumer space and create a truly engaging and simple to use application you win, simple as that. But (and here’s the big one) how can you achieve this? You can’t re-build or refresh the applications you have and even if you could, would you know what to build and how? Would your decisions still be current by the time the solution is ready to go live?
At Webinfinity we believed so passionately in this vision we decided to focus our entire business on it. We recognized that future enterprise experiences will be very different from today and decided the time was right to craft a technology that could help our customers get there here and now without the need to embark on unrealistic internal development cycles.
Buzzwords are all very well, but in this ever-changing world of cloud and big data, ‘consumerizing’ your enterprise may well become the most important challenge you need to address – and doing it successfully might just change the game for your entire user community.