Consumerisation of the enterprise
Thor Olof Philogène, CEO and co-founder of Stravito, explains the emerging trend likely to drive the next decade.
The digitalisation of consumer services over the last decade has been astounding, with core players such as Netflix, Spotify and Uber leading their respective sectors with simple, easy-to-use and streamlined services, valuing consumer usability as much as anything else.
Over the next 10 years, we can — and should — expect this trend of “consumer usability” to make a significant impact on technology aimed at enterprises and B2B organisations, which, up until now, have had a reputation for building and implementing “buzzword” software that becomes just another platform, rarely used by the people it was designed to support.
The term “shelfware” was coined for this type of technology, and over the last year, as millions of employees have been pushed to a remote environment owing to the coronavirus pandemic, this problem has felt ever closer. Many will already have the experience of buying never seen or touched software that is promptly closed or replaced due to a lack of usability or clarity around what the function of the product or technology even is. Conversely, many more are likely to have an extremely useful (and expensive) tool sitting on their desktop, which has never been looked at, used or understood.
In fact, recent data revealed that enterprises spend an average of £10.4 million a year on software licensing, and a further £4.1 million on SaaS. However, it also revealed that more than 20% of that software licensing spend is on software that isn’t actually being used. This represents an average of £2.13 million a year in wasted investment.
Admittedly, in this new remote working-first era, budget cuts have forced many CTOs to review existing technology, and thoroughly screen new tech candidates before enlisting their services. However, in many cases, this screening process fails to address the heart of the issue that renders supposedly “useful tools” as just more shelfware tech, and that is, the software’s usability.
Explaining or observing usability can be challenging. Particularly as a great user experience is not a function that is visible in a feature comparison chart, and truly understanding exactly how useful a tool can be to employees and workplaces requires more than a demo and honest feedback from the people who are likely to use it most.
This being said, solutions that champion consumer usability at the heart of their offering usually tick a certain number of boxes by default: in today’s climate, this includes the use of artificial intelligence tools and machine learning to automate processes, facilitate “plain-language” searches, or diagnose problems, for example. Said technology solutions should also be cloud-ready and be able to integrate with existing applications and infrastructure, ensuring that they can pull data or information from all relevant sources if required.
Maintaining a healthy line of easy-to-use internal tools can also be key in preventing knowledge silos developing between teams or departments. With workforces now distributed across and between nations, sharing and accessing data via a universal platform that is updated in real time will be imperative to reducing wasted licence fees, employee time and market research spend.
But, the increasing “consumerisation” of enterprises will not just be born out of workers’ demand for easy-to-use software. In the post-Covid era, customers too are increasingly demanding around-the-clock and instantaneous access to services. What’s more, a personalised customer experience, as facilitated by artificial intelligence and data-gathering, is becoming the norm even in B2B sectors. Those companies which do not adapt are sure to fall behind in their respective industries.
Keeping up with this exponential curve in consumer expectations demands new technology that can centralise access to information, automate processes, save time or introduce a completely new shortcut to business operations that improves efficiency and quality of service in the long term.
Studies have shown that even the most technologically capable workers look favourably upon usability as a key function of a product or service. And that’s not even taking into account the fact that there are now entire generations of workers who are being forced to work from a 100% digital environment for the first time and find it difficult to adapt to completely digital operating systems and new software.
Therefore, as we progress into the new decade, demand for usability in enterprise-grade software will impact all departments of any given sector. Each component of a business is absolutely vital, and introducing a seamless connection between marketing, sales, R&D and corporate development, for example, as facilitated by visual and easy-to-use software, will become one of the most vital elements in improving the customer experience and maintaining workplace efficiency throughout this unprecedented era of change.