Welcome to part two of this post the first part of Building your consumerisation of IT Strategy can be found here
Consumerisation and productivity go hand in hand, but it might not be top of mind when you first think about consumerisation. Being productive in some way, however, is the main driver for consumerisation in the mind of the user. Sure, they might also be thinking about using a device that makes them look good, but most people are really motivated by doing something well (I’d like to think), and if having a shiny device in front of a customer when making a sale helps the sale, well…
When we think about productivity, though, we almost always think about software, and having good software that people know how to use and want to use is essential. People need to have software that lets them achieve the same results at work as at home, so the idea of productivity changes a little. First and foremost productivity software does need to do the things that it’s always done: write documents, understand data, create presentations, organise information, collaborate. Modern productivity software needs to go far beyond that remit, though, because people simply expect to be able to do more with what they have. They might not use everything all the time but they do expect to be able to do it when they need to.
Take the example of creating a presentation. When you’re in that particular flow of organising information into a digestible form, people find it useful to be able to embed and edit video, to crop, alter and colour pictures and to be able to insert eye-popping charts. It would be a far more interesting world if everyone used all the tools open to them but it’s better that they’re there than for users to have to go grab £60 of video editing software or £200 of photo editing software. Having really strong basic productivity tools that do more than just the very basics makes good business sense, so it should still be a cornerstone of your strategy.
Seamless collaboration is something that’s become essential, yet few people even realise that it’s part of consumerisation. People collaborate around slightly different things in a consumer setting; not so much around documents but more around pictures and video. Being able to quickly and simply share a photo on Facebook is so ubiquitous that people do it now without even thinking about it, and they also expect people to be able to comment on those items immediately. This simple act of sharing is the first step to collaboration. How much more useful is this in a business setting when what’s shared is a tender document and colleagues working on it together can simply comment or make updates?
Collaboration as a part of consumerisation makes the tools for collaborating more natural for the end user. That could be a SharePoint site where people can upload, comment on or edit the document online, or it could be using Lync to have a real-time conversation about a document. Better yet, it could be having an online meeting using Lync, where one colleague presents the slides and can go back a slide or two when someone gets lost. Your strategy for productivity within a consumerisation strategy should be to naturalise workflows.
In my mind, Office 2010 is the starting point. Again, most people have Office at home, many people use some kind of sharing site and many use video conferencing or internet voice calling, like Skype, on a regular basis. In a business environment you need similar functionality but with some central control.
This area should be a no-brainer for everyone. Does it cost more to produce one version of an application or two? Wherever you can it’s wise to build your strategy around minimising the number of bespoke applications you need, but you should also try to minimise the need to build applications for different devices. Sure, it might be popular to have an iPad version of your internal sales tool, but at what cost? The reality is that with the proliferation of all these different types of devices it might seem like you need to invest money in having a custom application developed. There are, however, lots of other options.
One such option is to develop a web app. Most devices are capable of viewing web pages, so it’s perfectly possibly to do, even if it’s not all that popular. There are times, though, when a web app becomes the right move. I suspect we’ll see much more being made of the “touch-friendly web” or some such naming over the coming years as we see all devices, including PCs, becoming better at touch. A touch-friendly website is a good move in many ways, not least because the tendency is for touch-friendly to equate to user-friendly. The National Rail website is a great example.
Websites should work the same on a touch device as with a keyboard and mouse, and so should applications. If you’re currently running a project to develop any application ask yourself and your development/UX (User Experience) team if the website works well with touch. If it’s an internal-facing application ask the question until you get the right answer - in my experience they tend to hang around for about five to seven years between major iterations.
This is more than a question about UX. It’s a question about the OS you are targeting. If you build an application for Windows, you know it will work on Windows regardless of it being a on touch-friendly device like the current crop of great devices from Asus, Acer, Fujitsu and Novatech (to name just four). Someone will probably comment to say that’s not the case with Windows Phone, but I’ll pre-empt that by saying again that there’s more to device targeting and it goes deeper into the realm of code reuse. Someone else will probably comment to say that there have been countless application compatibility issues with Windows over the years, and there have, but there have always been numerous ways to mitigate the problems. The miriad ways to mitigate IE6 compatibility issues is a testament to that.
So how should one think about application development within a consumerisation sense? For me it’s simple: do as little development as you need to help your users. By that I mean it would seem wasteful to build different applications for each target device. Always look for at least one parallel of synergy: same language, same framework, same delivery vehicle.
Your delivery vehicle is another interesting consideration. It’s worth remembering that self-service application deployment (aka an application market place) is a normal thing now - everyone is used to using them on mobile devices. I've already written about the importance of self service in consumerisation, though.
So when thinking about building a consumerisation strategy you’ll want to consider:
- Devices: Think about what “support” means, about changing how you buy devices
- Security and management: Think about data, provide access to it whilst considering the circumstances
- Productivity: Think about making the workflow as natural for the end user as possible, pre-empt as many of their actions as possible
- Application Development: Think about finding commonality between the devices you target so you need to do less development