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A couple of weeks ago we organised an interesting event – The Consumer at Work – that brought together people from traditional business software houses, some of our larger business customers, and some folk from digital and design agencies. The aim of the event was to explore themes around the impact that changing consumer expectations of consumption of technology will have on systems used within organisations.

The challenges of consumerisation in the workplace, with concepts like Bring Your Own Device, seems to have been fairly well-centred on the devices that people use to access information systems. Undoubtedly the way in which we use technology and smart devices outside of work is dramatically changing our expectations of how we should consume technology in the workplace. But it isn’t just a simple matter of making business apps accessible from within a touch environment: consumer-focused apps have a very different, user-centric design approach that is a large part of the overall experience.

From the conversations we had at the event it strikes me that there are three elements to bringing touch-based, “consumer-like” apps into the workplace:

  • User-centric, rather than process-centric UI/UX design
  • A move away from “and the kitchen sink” models of application design where all functionality is included in the desktop application, often because of the costs of distribution and deployment of software to desktop environments
  • Robust, cloud-based (public or private) back end services that are accessed via APIs.

For traditional business software vendors, and for larger IT departments who deliver their own internal applications, this potentially means rethinking application or product lifecycle management quite significantly and developing sets of user personae for the development of a series of apps, depending on the type of users and the context in which they’d be using the app. From an architectural perspective, it will be vital to ensure that business logic hasn’t crept into client software so that APIs can be deployed from the back-end services to deliver multiple apps to multiple platforms.

Given all of this technical legacy, this also means that there is potential opportunity for new entrants in the start-up world: developing services to address specific business needs in ways designed from the ground-up in line with the Cloud/apps/devices models that we see in the consumer space gives the opportunity to be of much fleeter-foot potentially than established providers in the market today. It’s interesting, though, that most startups I come into contact with are set firmly in the consumer rather than enterprise space.

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