Thanks largely to the activities of the so-called ‘Big Four’ (Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Google), the term consumerisation of the enterprise has become one of the hottest industry topics of recent times.
These giants have spent time and effort in understanding the user experience and analysing how consumers use different devices. They’ve looked at what drives engagement and how people interact with applications. They’ve understood that consumers increasingly just want to engage with content anywhere, at any time and on any device with UIs which are intuitive and require little to no training.
Business users are increasingly looking for the same from their business applications. Evidence shows interaction with multiple systems with cumbersome user interfaces is declining and as a direct result, user satisfaction has hit an all-time low.
So, isn’t it time to start applying the same principles to business applications and treat your users as individual consumers?
Gauging the Problem
Today, many businesses are wrestling with a myriad of different applications, often haphazardly linked together within their enterprise landscape. They may have made significant investments in recommended solutions. Yet despite everything, users are struggling to engage, adoption levels are low and too many people are complaining.
We’ve all seen situations where valuable content gets shared via email because it’s easier to ask a colleague. We all know the issues with people using offline spreadsheets when they should instead be updating a CRM.
The big problem is the inevitable reliance on the experience and expertise of the few staff who know how to use these systems. The result is a lack of consistency, a community that isn’t fully engaged and this in turn leads to knowledge loss, wasted time and missed opportunities.
But no matter, you made a significant investment and purchased the right software. So it must be the users who are wrong? If you could just enforce their use of the applications, maybe the problem would be solved?
Well we know the answer to that! A team won’t work effectively with systems unless they get something valuable back. And even if you force employees to use your tools you can’t make partners and customers do the same. So why aren’t your consumers engaging?
Let’s remember who they are – primarily, normal, ‘non-techy’ people who have to battle the pressures of deadlines, quotas, service level agreements, and the rest every day. They don’t generally understand advanced CRM configuration or why they have to search for the same content in three places. That’s why consumption and adoption of corporate systems is still poor throughout the ecosystem.
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 to look at what they use in their personal lives. 90% are consuming content on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Amazon, etc.
It’s about time B2B learnt from the consumer space; people now expect simple and common user experiences which 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 rather than forcing them to use applications that work for you not them.
So where do we go from here?
Let’s be clear. 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 likely to be doing a great job in isolation.
Now reimagine your enterprise landscape as a variety of apps. Many are cloud-based with open APIs and integration methodologies. Some may be old – built internally with no web services.
Now let’s put something at the centre of all of these apps and the content they contain. Let’s build a brain that understands content from different sources yet offers simple user features on all devices. And crucially let’s do this with an understanding of 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 works and makes sense to users. Something that can take valuable content and deliver it to the right person at the right time wherever they are.
If you can learn the lessons of the consumer space and create an engaging, simple-to-use application you win, simple as that. But how can you achieve this?
Buzzwords are all very well, but in this ever-changing world, ‘consumerising’ your enterprise may well become the most important challenge you need to address – and by doing it successfully you’ll be giving your users exactly what they need.
As VP of Enablement at Webinfinity, Rory provides oversight into the Product definition as well as overseeing their partner implementation strategy. He also plays a key role in the entrepreneurial aspect of the business.