A few months back, I stood in front of 100+ folks at the UX Immersion conference in Portland, and talked about the exciting possibilities in the enterprise mobility space. I showed real-world examples, explored models, and drummed-up enthusiasm for the future.
What was interesting, however, were the the very different comments I received afterwards:
Those working in the enterprise space: Wow! This is exciting stuff, much better than our current intranet, staff will love it.
Those working in the consumer space: What, this is it? What we’re doing for our customers is far more advanced than anything you’ve shown.
Both these quotes are valid, and it shows that enterprise mobility is both leading the way, and also far behind.
Leading the way
For the last decade, we’ve made staff struggle through complex intranets, with limited functionality and out-of-date content. At best, we’ve made it a little easier for staff, but often enterprise applications actually make it harder to get work done (think ERP solutions).
Enterprise mobility comes as a breath of fresh air in comparison. The forced simplicity that comes from delivering to small screens means intranets can’t just be “ported” to mobile devices. Creating solutions for staff in the field (or even away from their desks) delivers huge productivity benefits.
Mobile solutions must also focus on delivering tasks, not systems. This cuts through a lot of the complexity of desktop and web-based enterprise solutions.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that even simple enterprise mobile solutions can revolutionise how staff work.
The consumer-focused folks aren’t wrong, however. What is being delivered today for staff is primitive compared to the leading edge of mobile solutions.
The latest and greatest mobile apps feature rich interactions (swipe, pinch, etc) and extensive use of device capabilities (GPS, motion, etc). They are often beautiful to look at, and engaging to use. They are constantly innovating, aiming to out do other apps.
When sat beside consumer apps, enterprise mobile solutions look anaemic in comparison. The rich interfaces and device integration is missing. Functionality is often simple, and evolution is slow.
What this means
For me, the glass is half full. Yes, mobile enterprise apps are fairly simple, but this is a good thing when desktop solutions are so complex.
As the entries in the Intranet Innovation Awards have shown, the untapped nature of enterprise mobility means there are hundreds of low-hanging fruit that can deliver huge benefits.
Enterprise solutions are also getting a lot better, and quickly. We’ve seen mobile solutions save €100,000 in just one year, and others deliver 50% productivity gains for field staff in a month. That’s not bad!
So yes, we should measure enterprise solutions against the best that the consumer space is delivering. But we can, and should, still start with simple solutions that work well. Let’s get started!