I run a global IT staffing and solutions provider, with a young team. Our staff are used to organising their social lives around Facebook, WhatsApp or LinkedIn, and they mostly have some kind of tablet or smartphone.
This raises an expectation amongst our staff: they like the ease with which they can use mobile apps on their phone, and when they get to work they want our business applications to perform like commercial, downloadable apps.
Users in organisations like RED also prefer to use tools and applications they are comfortable with. This is increasingly the case as business tools become more prevalent and abundant, particularly those delivered as a service.
For example, I’m always being asked to let staff use Dropbox or Evernote. They’re well-established apps that people are familiar with, and it can be difficult to explain to someone why they can’t use their favourite software at work.
Businesses may also need to use particular consumer-facing applications in order to communicate with the outside world. For example, some of our candidates prefer to be contacted using WhatsApp messaging – if we couldn’t offer this facility, it would put us at a potential disadvantage compared to competitors that can.
The challenge created for organisations is this: once you’re convinced that these kind of tools have a value, and enable efficient working, how do you allow staff to use them, and yet still retain control? How can you embrace these bolt-on applications without compromising your data and security?
You can probably label this problem under the title identity management. I know there are tools emerging such as OneLogin, but are they the best answer? And how do they integrate with your existing IT infrastructure?
As well as security, usability is another issue that we’re facing. Traditionally, many businesses have their own internal systems and user guides that determine who can do what and what screens they have to use. The software may be complicated, and there’s an expectation that staff invest some time in learning to use the applications properly.
But how many apps do you download on the iTunes store that have a user guide? I think it’s fair to say the answer is basically none.
There’s also a more ‘throwaway’ attitude amongst users to this kind of software.
While there are various contradictory statistics being reported, I’ve heard anecdotally that over 70% of apps are opened only once, and 40% are deleted after their first use. There are also well-researched figures that show that only 16% of users would try an app more than twice if it failed to work for them.
If this is how commercial apps are developing and being used, my view is as the workforce gets younger – and more are from the generation that are familiar with consumer-facing apps – then businesses need to find a way to have their own software that works like these apps.
Whatever software we present to our users, it must be simple, easy to use and effective. It must also secure our business data and rigorously control access. These are not contradictory goals, but achieving both requires careful thought and planning.