Are consumer solutions revolutionizing the way that enterprise software is created? Quentin Hardy of The New York Times says yes, and points to the increasingly short time period between product updates on newer solutions like Workday, as compared to product updates from traditional enterprise vendors like Oracle that can take years to be released. Today’s fast updates allow software vendors to pivot quickly with market trends, and quickly integrate features that customers are requesting.
I agree with Hardy; consumer solutions are dramatically affecting the way enterprise software solutions are created and where I’m seeing this influence the most is in the user experience and design of enterprise solutions. Professionals use consumer apps in their personal life, and they are demanding the same ease-of-use and intuitive designs be implemented for their enterprise apps and solutions.
In today’s mobile world, we need tools that are designed mobile-first, so that users have one simple interface to learn, whether they’re accessing the solution on a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. However, some companies are moving towards this too slowly for users, and thus their enterprise software deployments are getting left by the wayside, by employees that find it too cumbersome or complicated.
My opinion is that many companies just aren’t willing to invest the time to re-create their solutions for the mobile world we now find ourselves living in. To create a beautiful, simple mobile-first experience takes much more than just bolting a PC-based solution and workflow onto a mobile device. The two form factors are fundamentally different from a user experience perspective. Not only do they not operate the same way, there are also inherent differences in how someone performs various functions on a PC versus a mobile device. Just as an example, you have no overlapping windows on a tablet or a smart phone and you don’t have a mouse. Creating a software solution for the desktop/laptop first, and then scaling it down for mobile devices is just not the right approach.
At Accellion we approached designing for our latest solution, kiteworks, from a tablet-first perspective. Why a tablet? We believe it is the optimum form factor for employees in today’s mobile era and it is also a more restrictive platform. Once we’d created a beautiful experience for the tablet form factor, we scaled the functionality down for smartphones and up for desktop/laptops. We now have the same user-experience across all devices, which greatly simplifies the learning curve for users, and ensures that employees can access information or content in the same manner, no matter what device they have close to hand.
I believe that enterprise software vendors need to take a page from consumer solutions, and create solutions that are easy-to-use, and fun to use. The easiest way to get started down this path is to design your solution for mobile first, and then expand the same interface onto other platforms - companies that don’t will be left behind by their customers.