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The Consumable Enterprise

30 Mar

 

How IT, User Experience Designers and Technologists are set to collaborate toward a new Digital Enterprise.

 

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The Consumerization of IT has become quite the buzzword these days. The term was originally coined to refer to employees using popular “consumer market” technologies and devices at home and then introducing them in their work environment. This has become the rallying point for advocates of a more intuitive, human-centered approach to enterprise applications.

One of the most notable outcomes of the Consumerization of IT has been the fact that IT departments are no longer the gatekeepers of enterprise software solutions. Popular consumer market applications such as DropBox and Google Docs have created spaces where workers collaborate in the enterprise outside of IT’s control. This can also present a host of problems around security and information policies.

With this new development in employee behavior, the challenge is a new set of expectations traditionally ignored by IT and other enterprise technology stakeholders. Workers are accustomed to the intuitive and sleek consumer applications they use for various personal and professional tasks using their own devices. Now they want their enterprise software to provide them with the same experience.

For IT to provide software solutions that compete favorably with consumer market apps from a User Experience standpoint, while providing the enterprise what it needs (policy compliance and secure information) is  a big challenge. IT departments are already strained with endless demands for data coming from all corners of the enterprise. Compounding the difficulty, is the traditional view in the enterprise app hierarchy, that function trumps form. Creating intuitive and engaging user experiences is simply not in the IT toolbox.

Most IT departments recognize this shortcoming and try to find partners to help them. Not every organization has a user experience team and even when they do, the UX team can be too far removed from the technology. So while they may be able to design good customer experiences in theory, these rarely get implemented successfully. Most are challenged when it comes to selecting the right technology to best deliver on the whole customer experience. 

To use an example, our company PULL was recently engaged to help create a portal for a corporate educational platform. The portal experience needed to incorporate a multitude of functions including transactions, account management, community interactions, gamification and more. Our assessment process looked at several technology solutions until we helped our client settle on a single platform of choice. That platform provided the ideal software solution to execute experiences that allow internal customers to easily navigate from “shopping”, registering for new learning tracks, accessing courses, to managing their accounts, and participating in peer discussions all under a single user account. When making that selection we also analyzed the risk with potential future evolutions. We looked at how the platform might eventually be used for learning management and reporting as well. We made our selection with the advance knowledge that it had the ability to easily integrate all these future business needs with plugins.

The recipe for success for IT and the enterprise lies in partnering with resources who not only have human-centered design expertise but are seasoned technologists as well. In other words, there needs to be a concerted effort to not only create an intuitive and engaging app that will boost productivity and user satisfaction, the software also needs to fit within a technology ecosystem that can evolve according to business priorities.