Businesses are on the brink of an enterprise ‘app-ocalypse’ driven by the advance of cloud services companies and their workforce have added to their arsenal in order to cater to customers and deliver amazing (often times contextual) experiences. Driven by a desire to improve service and performance these businesses are unwittingly creating a chaotic — even crippling — user experience for their workforce. David Lavenda tells how freedom of choice — which allows businesses to select the most appropriate cloud service for the task at hand — has created problems for the enterprise that only app and services consolidation can solve.
Mobile has empowered a new workforce and a new way of working, but it has also created an avalanche of applications that threatens to crush today’s business professionals under a mass of information and activity.
This is the hard truth about the ‘Era of the Digital Workplace.’
It all started when enterprises began to embrace a dizzying array of data and cloud services in an effort to ‘get stuff done’ better and faster. However, those same enterprises are waking up to the realization that they no longer need more apps and cloud-based services.
To the contrary, enterprises need solutions that will enhance individual and collective decision-making, prioritize work and activities for employees, reduce workplace stress and improve overall productivity.
A review of recent reports shows the true extent of the information (and app) overload that will soon come crashing down on the enterprise in what ZDNet has described as the coming enterprise ‘app-ocalypse.’
This year alone, an updated forecast from research firm International Data Corporation estimates the mobile workforce will exceed 1.3 billion, with 60 percent of employees using apps in their daily work. That dovetails with earlier studies that pegged the average number of applications deployed per organization at 424 in 2013 (Mobile Helix).
Connect the dots, and more is not always better.
The number of apps and services workers use to get their jobs done creates the requirement for new solutions to manage the information overload crushing today’s business professionals.
Single-screen Digital ‘Workstream’
Solving for the app-ocalypse requires a new and innovative approach to the aggregation and contextualization of work streams from cloud services.
Think Flipboard for business. As digital and mobile news aggregators, like Flipboard, combine news from publications such as the Wall Street Journal and Forbes with social channels such as Twitter and Facebook into a single view, they simplify the experience for the user, giving them what they need in an easy-to-consume format.
The Digital Workplace needs a similar unifying solution for notifications and updates from disparate enterprise applications such as CRM, ERP, HCM, help desk and PLM systems, which are increasingly moving to the cloud.
In practice such a single-screen ‘workstream’ would need to consolidate employee tasks, project notifications and document alerts from systems such as Microsoft Office 365/SharePoint Online, CRM systems such as Salesforce and Zendesk, as well as social tools like Yammer.
While effort undertaken to create this new unified Digital Workstream is a step in the right direction, merely consolidating and aggregating information and alerts is like asking your employees to drink from a fire hose.
They will surely drown without the tools (and intelligence) to resolve the information and prioritization overload.
This is where the real game-changer — the ability for workers to experience personalized work updates and alerts — comes in.
The arrival of a truly ‘Contextual Digital Workstream’ enables business users to find and focus on relevant information faster, take intelligent action (based on that information because it is tailored to their requirements) and — ultimately — drive better business outcomes.
What do I mean by context?
At one level, it’s about the topics that mean a lot to the individual business professional: key customers, major deals or important projects. Context can also be linked to time and location.
Add context to the Digital Workstream and business users are empowered to focus on what’s most important, regardless of the information source.
What is the impact of context?
Using the consumer realm as a guide, Google Now — which provides mobile consumers with nearby information using location and personal preferences for context — is a great example of how contextual Digital Workstreams can empower users with the aggregated information and assistance necessary to do their job, where and when they want and need it.
The evolving ‘Engagement Workplace’
“Poor user experience in the Digital Workplace leads to multiple issues including reduced productivity and employee engagement.” Paul Miller and Elizabeth Marsh, The Digital Workplace Group
Fragmentation, information overload and an abundance of apps. The conditions are coming together for an ‘app-ocalypse’ that will likely cost enterprises productivity and performance, not enhance them.
But it’s not too late provided enterprises and organizations sharpen their focus on ways to put their users back in control.
Now, in the early stages of the transformation to the cloud, is the time for organizations to focus on enabling what Forrester declares the ‘Engagement Workplace’ – “a workplace that empowers employees using any device to take the next most likely action as needed”.
Getting There is Half the Fun
It will take some time before everyone works strictly in the cloud and has a contextual workstream for all their cloud services, but here are some things you can do today to get your life in order:
- With the freedom to select from a wide array of publicly-available business services, identify a few which fulfill your unique needs and use those. Start with apps already in use at your organization. Often, tools like SharePoint and Skype for Business are available today, but not very accessible from mobile devices. Look for ways to leverage these before going outside.
- Use your most central business app; i.e. the one that contains the largest part of the information you need during the day, to keep you up to date. Set notifications that alert you to important activities. Reduce the dependence on email as the ‘go to’ app, which is usually a cacophonic jumble of noise. Use email only when necessary.
- Adopt direct communication channels like the phone, text messaging, or instant messaging to knock out decisions quickly. Avoid endless email threads.
Beyond the quick fixes listed above, Digital Workstreams are a key enabler to continue to allow workers to select the best cloud service for a given task, while providing the unified user experience to keep freedom of choice turning into app-ocalypse.
Editor’s note: David is the VP of product strategy at harmon.ie, a leading provider of mobile collaboration products. A technology strategist, David is fascinated by the interactions linking people, organizations and technology. He recently completed a graduate degree in Science, Technology and Society (STS), investigating how information overload in organizations evolved with the introduction of email. David is an International Scholar for the Society for the History of Technology.