The Evolving Role of User Experience in Enterprise Mobility

Barely six years ago, enterprise mobile was largely confined to two main areas, email and field data capture. The evolution of enterprise mobile in many instances has taken both business owners and employees alike by surprise.

Back then...

Back in 2007, Windows Mobile 6.0 was the main name in the game when rolling mobile solutions out across trucking and logistics in Australia. From deliveries in cities to the baron outback, the functional ability to capture information and have it sent back in real time almost took precedence over the user experience. There were no benchmarks but a paper delivery docket.

Organisational Change Management (OCM) was a significant component of the projects back then, to introduce both the technology and the process. Introducing truck drivers to a device when a number of them didn;t own a mobile phone, and a Kenworth truck phone was on a cord.

The 'Mobile Generation'

Fast forward six years, enterprise mobile is the hand that has been forced for many businesses, driven by both a want and a need. The CEO introducing a new found toy and needing to connect it, employees and the influence of their networks, customers and competitors right through to the regulatory and compliance requirements of contracts or governments.

With the market penetration of smart phones at an all-time high, employers demanding more for less, remote working initiatives, globalisation and elimination of the standard working day has resulted in anyone at the coal face wanting the user experience to be as intuitive as it can possibly be.

User experience takes on a number of components outside of just the visual user interface.

An application can be built, but if the interface to the back office infrastructure is not architected carefully, the experience can be woeful. Throw the security team into the mix and the challenges can be unprecedented. Secure and where possible, seamless integration is a must. Multiple user logins, soft and hard security tokens, different passwords and session timeouts are common pain points in our meetings with businesses.

With mobility having evolved somewhat slowly in many organisations, a further common gripe amongst our clients is that desktop teams are handed mobile devices and try to replicate the office experience onto a phone or tablet. So, in essence, an experience that should be making the life of the newly flexible employee easier, is in fact resulting in out of hours calls to the Service Desk, frustrations and worse still, a reduction in productivity, the primary premise for mobile in the first place!

So how is this addressed?

For businesses with a field-based presence, enterprise mobility may have started as much as 15 years ago. The last six years have shifted the poles so far, that a complete enterprise mobile strategy aligned with corporate strategy is the only way to take the organisation forward. Siloed functions, albeit with a mobile presence, don't provide a consolidated view of the business.

Direction from Executives as to where the business needs to get to, right down to the intended or current end users of the solution for their input are the first steps. Roles on projects need to include strong enterprise architects, who can design the infrastructure to meet the requirements of the business. This should be scalable from both a device volume perspective, data capacity, secure and above all, consider the user experience from the source to the user.

The end users now offer a real-world experience from their personal use of mobile technology. This is an opportunity to innovate, but if not managed, hinders delivery of an enterprise mobile solution. A strong project management methodology is key to solution delivery. It can no longer take many months or a couple of years to deliver on mobile, it needs to be reduced to an agile phased rollout, otherwise business units get itchy and start forging their own path.

Businesses with a field-based operation (inspection, audit, delivery etc.) that would traditionally have required a rugged device, now have user audiences asking for Android or Apple devices, the latter having challenges around 'field proofing', with the best endeavours being a rugged case.

Consideration must be paid to internal business requirements for availability and building for the future using a platform that will enable multi-channel growth through mobile.

Aside from the application itself for the user experience, it is device-driven also.

Android and Apple have guidelines that designers must conform to, which goes some way to creating a more seamless experience between consumer and enterprise, however functionality is the other area that employees want.

The functionality that the employee has become so dependent on in their personal life; location based data, intuitive screens, algorithms that learn behaviour and memorise preferences, turn by turn navigation and in general, beautiful products, must now be delivered to the enterprise. No longer is it acceptable to have a poorly designed user experience or worse, a desktop formatted website on a mobile device. When the same happens in the consumer world, a product fails. In an enterprise the equivalent is, the solution adoption is poor, there is a high resistance to change, continuous feedback up to the top of the business on how bad it is and beyond.

Where next...

The final angle is consolidation of devices, which heads down the BYOD path and a topic for another author! Why carry a device for work and a separate device for personal use? The work tool must be built for the personal device. And just when you thought it was safe, along comes Bring Your Own App (BYOA), providing the next wave of excitement for CIOs and the wider enterprise alike...

This article was written by Alan King, Chief Mobile Officer, Dusk Mobile Pty Ltd.