Would you be willing to wait two minutes for a website to load? What if it took 35 clicks to get through an online checkout process? Are you becoming reliant on the ease of mobile banking to check your balance or pay off a credit card?
Digitalization and data driven products and services have truly empowered the consumer, providing access and reach to a global market, as well as more choice and control. As the balance has flipped from the business to the consumer, we have seen that reaching the consumer now means focusing on the experience to make it simple, easy and intuitive. This experience is further enhanced by leveraging data about the consumer to personalize, and analytics to anticipate consumer needs. Failure to compete on experience is resulting in consumers turning off, finding alternatives, moving to a different site, looking for a more tailored service. Hence, the focus on consumer experience is paramount for any business and is now a C-Level and board room conversation.
As consumer expectations have evolved, businesses have adapted their external products and services, however this consumer experience is now bleeding into other aspects of life and business. Consumers who are employees, amplified by a millennial workforce who are digital first, are now driving the same expectations into the workings of the enterprise. All aspects of enterprise work are now expected to have augmented tech and software that ‘just works’ and leverages data and analytics to anticipate and drive automated actions where possible. After all, do you expect to read a manual before using a new mobile phone? Or do you just expect it to work, be intuitive enough that you can call or message a friend, access the web or download a new app? Enterprises now face this consumerization internally, with employee expectations of thoughtful and considered end-to-end user experiences (UX), involving little to no pre-training, beautifully constructed user interfaces (UI) and software that anticipates the next action, perhaps requiring no UI at all.
However, as we look at enterprise software, and specifically how employees attempt to harness and leverage data and analytics to drive business decisions, we observe complicated, hard-to- use silos of tools and tech. So, how can consumerization translate to the enterprise? First and foremost is the self-service trend. With consumers able to now perform many more actions through web and mobile interfaces, they no longer have to visit the retail store, the bank branch, or rely on a call center agent to perform actions on their behalf with clunky, time consuming processes. This same expectation is driving new web and mobile first enterprise applications that provide data and control in the hands of employees. Gone are the days of monster, multi-year projects that require business teams to write 100-page requirements documents and detailed plans, which are passed onto the IT department for execution. Employees now expect to have access to data directly to do more exploration and discovery, working in agile cross-functional teams. They want to leverage data science and iterative analysis to test new hypotheses and develop business ideas. They demand direct access to the data they need, without having to provide lengthy justifications upfront or wait for IT taking months to structure all of the data before use.
And with web and mobile first interfaces, consumers are now experiencing marketplaces with ‘always on’ access and convenience. Similarly, enterprises are seeing increased demands for flexibility and real time access that extends beyond the traditional 9am-5pm workplace. In fact, a study by Bentley University found 77% of millennials believe that flexible work hours would increase productivity for people their age. To accommodate these flexible work schedules, enterprise software and tech also needs to be available 24/7 without downtime and outages. In fact, real-time, on-demand software not only needs to be available, it needs to operate at speed to meet the fast-changing demands of today’s business. Just consider the process of analytics, if software is unable to operate at the speed of thought, business users and data scientists stop asking probing questions and diving deeper into business problems.
In an increasingly complex and fast changing world for humans, ease of adoption and zero barriers to entry are a must. When consumers want to try out a new video streaming app, they typically download it for free, try it out, pay by video or subscribe to a starter plan and move to more sophisticated and expensive tiers of subscription as their needs grow. This frictionless adoption and flexibility in consumption is exactly what enterprises are now seeking in a world of constant change. For enterprise software, this means no longer relying on heavy IT procurement processes to spend millions of dollars. Instead, cloud technologies are creating the possibility for low entry barriers that skip lengthy installation processes and configuration of software, and instead provide ready to use environments that can be flexibly consumed by the dollar with consumption pricing and more organically grown as they deliver business value.
Furthermore, in a highly disruptive and competitive multi-vendor market, consumers demand plug and play capabilities. Your Apple iPhone should work with your Microsoft Windows laptop, which should in turn support the Google Chrome browser. This is not dissimilar to enterprise tech and software. With more data and analytics tools, languages and engines than ever before, each providing overlapping but unique capabilities, employees are expecting to be able to harness features and software APIs that make inter-connection, sharing of data and results between software easy in an integrated ecosystem. In a world increasingly run on data and analytics, it is essential that pipelines can span multiple analytic engines, languages and functions so that maximum value can be extracted from data to generate superior answers, as compared to any one tool alone.
Finally, it is notable that great consumer experiences don’t necessarily have to be driven from a beautifully crafted user interface. In fact, in the consumer world we now observe the rise of non-traditional interfaces, such as voice with Siri or Alexa. Consumers are increasingly moving to voice commands to operate their homes – switching on/off lights, controlling their heating, selecting and constructing playlists, setting timers and alarms, amongst many other actions. How will enterprise software adjust? Where is the voice activated assistants that can answer questions about your business - what was the revenue this quarter and forecast for next? The following era of enterprise software will bring data and analytic powered software that can answer these questions, but also learn, predict and operate the future business. Users will no longer ask questions of software, as new AI-driven software tools and features will see patterns and trends of interest and create alerts proactively drawing human attention to where it is needed.
Not only is enterprise consumerization demanded by the new age workforce, the benefits also extend to business productivity. Studies have shown that stock prices of companies who invest in design outperformed the S&P 500 Index by 219% between 2004 and 2014 (Design Management Institute) and ROI of a good user experience ranges from $2-$100 for every $1 spent (Software Engineering: A Practitioner’s Approach, 2010). User experience has impact on employee productivity and enterprise stock prices. Beyond this, businesses that can operate software and tech more easily and can access data and analytics in an integrated manner are able to increase the agility of their business, drive better decisions and achieve digital transformation. With a better internal employee experience, you will drive a better consumer experience. With enterprise consumerization, enable your employees to better serve customers.