Back in the days when the first enterprise software was being designed, development was an enormously costly process. Just the hardware required to create, test and deploy a business app was out of reach except for the big firms dedicated to software development. This was before the days of Agile – and long before anyone with a laptop and some coding experience could expect to create an application and take it from concept to market in just a few months.
Bland is bad. Gorgeous is good. Functionality alone isn't going to cut it anymore.
Jason Tee, Enterprise Software Architect
Today, with cloud computing, open source collaboration and inexpensive SDKs, talented designers and developers have raised consumer expectations for the 'technology experience' to unprecedented levels. Even the video games and social media apps people can play with on a mobile phone these days are thoroughly captivating. The average computer and smart device user is saturated with choices for a better, faster, more beautiful experience. This begs the question, how should consumerization affect the world of enterprise software?
When attractive applications arrive
Bland is bad. Gorgeous is good. Functionality alone isn't going to cut it anymore. This isn't just true for customer-facing applications. Even internal apps need to be easy on the eyes. Adding a custom skin isn't necessarily enough. The software should have a look and feel that doesn't scream WORK. The line between work and the rest of life is already blurring for most employees. The less your apps make work seem like drudgery, the better. If you can make cool apps part of your corporate culture so that employees actually brag about the software, you've got it made.
Fast, friendly and frictionless
Nothing makes users more furious than an app with slow load or response times. Sure, that little circle going around or the progress bar growing makes it seem like something is happening. But everyone knows the truth. Every time you have to wait, your concentration is broken and it takes additional effort to get back in the working groove. Enterprises that want the highest productivity will invest in making their apps fast.
Pushing towards intuitive interfaces
This is another major pain point with enterprise software. The new rule is: if you have to train people to use it, the application is too complicated. Employees will still use your apps if they are required to do so. But in today's BYOD world, that may mean they are doing most of their work on non-approved apps and then just connecting to your enterprise apps once in a while to move completed work over into the approved space. This means you may be missing out on real-time access to new data.
Today's enterprises are acknowledging the BYOD trend by moving toward a mobile first strategy. This means that new apps are being designed for interactivity based on more than keyed data or mouse commands. Being able to tap a button on the screen is just the start. Users expect functionality such as dragging/dropping and pinching/zooming. The next level of interactivity will likely be voice commands for enterprise apps. Continuous feedback from users will be critical to ensure that included functions actually serve a business purpose by promoting greater productivity and satisfaction.
Seeking scalable and available software
Along with the mobilization of enterprise software come the issues of scalability and availability. The cloud and web-based apps (SaaS) might seem to solve both of these problems automatically. However, this is not necessarily the case. Enterprise software developers are learning that factors such as the number of users accessing the app simultaneously, the type of device being used, network availability, and even battery charge level can affect how apps function. This means new types of quality control such as in-the-field crowd-testing are required to ensure that a quality experience is available to all users at all times.
How enterprise software firms are getting it right
Ironically, few of the giant software firms are making over their suites of enterprise apps to be more attractive and intuitive yet. It's the smaller startup firms that tend to have the best grasp on aesthetics and usability. For example, Domo's solutions have the sleek and modern look that is so sadly lacking in most legacy enterprise software. The graphics and interface make most traditional business apps look like a plain Excel spreadsheet. YouEarnedIt is not only presenting an intuitive "social media-like" experience but also changing the way companies interact with employees. This innovative application allows workers to incentivize themselves with rewards and recognition for a job well done. That's probably the real takeaway message for enterprises. Giving consumerization its due could change the way you do business for the better.
Let us knowyour thoughts on how to best take advantage of the trend towards consumerization.