Part 1 in the “Digital Platform” series that explores how organizations can rethink their IT infrastructure to take advantage of the increased efficiency, automation, and agility enabled by the latest intelligent technologies.
The convergence of the physical world with all things digital is altering every aspect of our everyday lives. Mobile phones dominate our attention as we continuously use them to inform ourselves and communicate with friends and family through a variety of chat, video, and text apps. On-demand streaming of movies and television episodes is quickly becoming a favorite pastime. Even intelligent assistants such as Alexa and Siri are guiding shopping decisions and refining our personal music libraries.
While conventional wisdom says progress is good, there’s always a catch – and this is undoubtedly the case with our growing reliance on digital experiences. Six years from now, a large percentage of the workforce will hardly remember, if at all, life without smart devices. And as an ever-growing number of digital channels, from conversational artificial intelligence to augmented and virtual reality, cater to the needs of this new generation, businesses need to quickly change how they operate. (But don’t take my word for it, hear it from Tim Cook.)
Thanks to this emerging reality, many executives are facing a challenging dilemma: Either they provide a range of digital experiences to employees, partners, or customers or they risk losing business agility due to pre-digital engagement practices.
Delivering experiences that matter – everywhere – is paramount
Most business leaders understand that a great customer experience is not possible unless their employees and partners have an excellent experience. Whether an experience is designed for customers or employees, they’re going to expect that same immersive, cognitive, and trusted experience every time. But more importantly, when each experience consistently delivers on that promise at every touchpoint, the company gains an advocate for life.
However, according to Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, adjunct professor of engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and a partner at Heidrick Consulting, most companies are falling short.
“The first thing they fail to do is work from the customer backward – start with the customer experience,” Snyder says. “If you just look at mobile as a proxy, and mobile and smartphones have been around quite a while, 60% of applications on mobile devices get abandoned after five uses … That’s not a great track record for the industry, which means we’re falling short on building good experiences.”
Why is that? Here are two reasons to consider:
- Business processes span various systems for a user. It’s not unusual that organizations use systems that do not follow the same design principles. The IT landscape is commonly built over time – with new applications and tools from different vendors or release versions added incrementally. For example, travel approval and expense claims go hand-in-hand from a process perspective, but they rarely follow each other in one application. And you’re lucky if you didn’t have to fill in an offline Excel sheet for one of these.
- UIs are often driven by application scope, not an interaction flow or end-to-end process. Jumping between applications is frustrating and definitely not seamless. And when older UIs are used, it’s nearly impossible to get everyone on the same page.
Monolithic applications are like opening a refrigerator: We don’t always remember why we opened the door in the first place. Let’s say you go in to quickly execute a small task, such as leave approval. You would go through everything your HR system offers before you are distracted by something else and are forced to exit the portal – and never address the original request.
The solution: Design better, develop faster, and integrate better
The key to ensuring that a digital experience is enjoyed by users starts with how IT teams understand what the rest of the business wants and engages every affected organization throughout the development process. Doing so will prevent the use of old UIs when the workforce increasingly demands more modern channels of engagement incorporated in their applications.
Innovating without disrupting operations is not easy. However, for some companies, the path toward optimized experiences is best done with a cloud platform. This deployment environment gives them the freedom to design experiences accurately, innovate at speed, integrate with back-end data sources, and expand their developer pool.
Take, for example, Waterwatch Cooperative. The developer and provider of global food-security technology is making vast volumes of data and complex algorithms easy to use with a cloud platform. And this capability led to the creation of its Crop Disease Alert app, which warns farmers – whether or not they regularly rely on technology – when their crops are at risk of disease.
The app gathers data from a variety of sources to alert farmers from their smartphones if a given field is in danger, allowing them to act quickly to avert potential disaster. Farmers can also provide feedback, which helps Waterwatch further customize its services to a specific field, crop, or farmer’s needs – all for a cost to the farmer of US$1 per year. The result has been a significant reduction in pesticide use and crop disease for farmers using the app.
Future business success depends on experience innovation
The innovation story of Waterwatch Cooperative is an excellent reminder that technology adoption and business impact is best ensured when there is a simple experience in front of complex technology.
At the end of the day, providing a great digital experience is critical for any business in this day and age, regardless of whether you engage with customers, partners, or employees. Luckily, cloud platforms give developers the innovation haven they need to create such experiences across applications and channels while keeping the user at the center of everything they do.
Give your employees real-time insights into business processes and daily work with enterprise intelligence on their mobile devices. Find out how in this Forrester Consulting opportunity snapshot, “Modern Businesses Depend on Mobilizing Enterprise Intelligence,” sponsored by SAP.
Learn more about SAP Cloud Platform.
And please listen to the replay of our “Pathways to the Intelligent Enterprise” Webinar, featuring Phil Carter, chief analyst at IDC, and SAP’s Dan Kearnan and Ginger Gatling.