It's common for organizations to use multiple software systems to handle certain tasks – whether it's for managing finances, customer relationships, operations, or marketing functions. However, it's also common for these systems to eventually overlap with each other, not integrate perfectly, and cause confusion amongst employees about which softwares are used when.
These scenarios are costly, both financially and from an efficiency standpoint. At Icreon, we have Consolidation strategies to help reduce the dependency on unnecessary technologies, and give you clear paths to simplifying your ecosystem. We build risk and cost models that identify the long-term gains from minimizing the number of systems your company uses to help you executing in ultimately reducing your software footprint.
Review all business technology systems and group them by their primary use cases.
Identify any applications that can be merged, updated, or replaced.
Develop an ecosystem roadmap that defines the Consolidation Process.
Consolidate the environment by removing dependencies on unneeded software.
Continuously simplify and re-assess the new environment against business goals.
Presenting to a non-technical audience, especially upper management, requires a unique communication strategy. Here are five quick tips to help you prepare for your next presentation:
People are visual. Flowcharts, graphs and workflows need little interpretation. Don’t limit yourself to 8 1/2 X 11 paper. Use flip charts and markers. The process of drawing is often easier and your audience won't strain their eyes on small fonts.
I was recently challenged to explain legacy data migration to the Chief Operating Office of one of our clients. This legacy migration was atypical. It consisted of three separate migrations from three separate technology systems, one being a flat file database. To tackle this difficult subject, I drew workflows and charts to help him understand how customer data would be migrated into the new system.
Don't try to impress non-technical people with technology talk–you’ll wind up frustrating them, not make yourself look intelligent. Use terms and language that everyone can understand. If you can’t find a simple way to get the message across, it may be too detailed for this audience.
Non-technical people don’t share the same level of passion about technology that you do. Your presentation should be short but thorough. Keep your ideas high level. Support details with visuals.
Don't assume your audience will come to the same conclusion that you will based on the information provided. State your conclusion for them, no matter how redundant it may seem.
Using examples that your audience can relate to turns concepts into reality. Take cues from your organization to provide supporting evidence to your claims or better explain a process or concept.
For a long time, “Consumer friendly” software had never really been applied to business technology. The technologies that consumers use have always been viewed as dumbed-down and less capable than that of enterprise technology. It was never a thought to bring consumer-grade technology into a business setting - but that’s changed. Today, platforms like Salesforce and Yammer and Workday are consistently demonstrating that consumer-level trends and features don’t require a decrease in technological capability.
Here are six ways you can consumerize your own IT:
Smart devices and consumer applications have changed the way we look at software, not only from a device standpoint - but from the user interface standpoint. Crowded screens and a clunky UX are no longer acceptable, whether talking consumer applications or enterprise software. If the design of the application is not user friendly, it’s not optimal.
One of the most important ways that consumer technology has affected how we view software in the enterprise is that users now understand what an intuitive user interface should look like. By placing heavier emphasis on the user experience and design, you will make your enterprise technology much more accessible and productive.
As recent platforms like Domo and Box have shown, enterprise software can learn from trends in consumer software. However, copying the latest features from popular platforms will not always work for your individual business. Take a look at how these trends and features are providing better user experiences and base your design off of that.
You can innovate your own enterprise technology to streamline workflows and increase functionality by implementing the value of recent consumer technology trends.
A valid concern in adopting consumer trends in the enterprise is that of security. Moving all your data to the cloud may be easier to handle and provide a much better workflow, but it can also be a large risk for data security. That’s part of the reason businesses are reluctant to adopt a BYOD policy, the security risks outweigh the reward of a better user experience.
Due to the recent reality of large-scale data breaches, whenever you attempt to adopt consumer trends in enterprise software the top priority must be maintaining the integrity of your systems. While the thought of data security shouldn’t inhibit your technological ambitions, it is important to take into account from the onset.
By opening up your enterprise IT to the possibility of BYOD, you’ll start to see the immediate benefits, such as increased productivity and improved morale throughout the workplace. Allowing employees to use their own devices of choice, you accommodate their preferred workflow, and you’ll find that employees are actually using more up-to-date technologies than you might have been able to provide.
It’s important to understand that BYOD policies require trade-offs. While they will streamline workflows and decrease technology costs, they require heightened security and demand platform flexibility. It’s imperative to keep this as mind as you explore the opportunity to place BYOD in the workplace.
While it’s great that each department in your business has a specialized software to accommodate everyday activities, the new wave of workplace IT aims to break down departmental silos. For example, the new platform Slack allows users to send anything from Google Drive files, to comments on Facebook, all the way to links on Soundcloud, simplifying workflows and increasing overall collaboration of an enterprise. Using systems that integrate departments will lead to a more efficient workplace.
One of the most important parts of a streamlined workplace is smooth interaction between team members. With the recent growth of platforms like Chatter and Yammer, workplaces are striving to increase productivity and make business more of a social space. While the roots of these platforms are in social networks like Facebook, they show how much room is left for innovation when it comes to workplace collaboration.
BYOD or social platforms may or may not be right for your business, but the consumerization trend has a wealth of ideas to offer for anyone looking to improve their enterprise technology. By prioritizing employee workflows over software features, businesses can use consumerization to streamline workflow processes and increase accessibility without sacrificing usability.
Enterprise software has never been known for being photogenic. Run a quick Google Image search, and you’ll find it extremely difficult to find screenshots of a CRM or an ERP platform. Instead, what you get are word clouds about software features, vague flowcharts and brand logos.
Many would blame the nondescript, blocky nature of enterprise software for this problem, but I see it differently.
Wordclouds and flowcharts are not a solution for ugly enterprise software, but are instead a symptom of one of the biggest issues plaguing enterprise software development today—an issue that I call “Feature Thinking."
In the past, when we’ve thought about what differentiates business software, we would think in terms of features. Features are a great way of quantifying the value of a product, but they can actually harm a software project when used as an end goal. Why? Because people don’t use software for its features. Good enterprise software should be more than the sum of its parts.
If I wanted to sell a beautiful, rustic brick house, I would never try to sell it by posting pictures of adobe slabs or panes of glass or roof shingles—even if the shingles were made of state-of-the-art material. More importantly, I would never let my materials dictate the way I decide to build the house. Just as homeowners want a place that complements their lifestyle, end users want software that makes their job easier. In the grand scheme of things, the bricks don’t matter, the shingles don’t matter, and the features don’t matter. Only the benefits of the final product matter.
When we see these vague wordclouds and flowcharts that are supposed to communicate the value of enterprise software, what we’re really seeing are lists of features. That’s why they’re ineffective, and that’s why we need a different approach to software development that doesn’t prioritize feature fulfillment.
The answer here lies in "Design Thinking:" A process which eschews Feature Thinking and seeks first to determine the wants of the end user. By keeping user desires as a guiding light, Design Thinking allows developers to create products that are both helpful and intuitive.
In 2007, Intuit implemented the ideals of Design Thinking in their "Design for Delight" approach. With a focus on customer empathy, a “broad-to-narrow” approach, and iteration with customers, this user-based methodology has been a part of their development process ever since. In addition to new visual improvements, Intuit has gone so far as to track user eye movements and heat maps in order to improve overall experience.
Another big player in the enterprise software space, Infor, is putting a heavy focus on Design Thinking through its "in-house creative think tank" called Hook & Loop.
In keeping with their mission statement to “create experiences people love,” Hook & Loop does away with flowcharts and stock imagery. Instead, they rely on photos of clean UI elements and high production-value videos to demonstrate their design-oriented development approach. While intuition dictates that IT professionals want features above all else; Hook & Loop wagers that functionality and usability take precedent over that desire. Using photos and design, they demonstrate their ability to create software that fulfills those desires.
Hook & Loop’s approach isn’t successful just because it looks nice. On the contrary, their software and website look nice because they hold user functionality and design clarity above all else. The experience is meant to feel comfortable to the end user, rather than communicating raw feature competence.
The most intriguing facet of Design Thinking is that it blurs the line between product design and product functionality. In some ways, it can be more difficult to create a product using this methodology because it requires a deep understanding of what the user wants, and then requires the foresight and execution to fulfill those wants in software form.
In my experience, Design Thinking offers some of the best solutions to deal with the current realities of software development. Every time we at Icreon have focused first on what the end user wants, we’ve been able to come up with more innovative, more useful ideas that ultimately speak for themselves. What’s best is that this approach is flexible, and works in small and medium-sized business settings just as well as it works in the enterprise setting. By ditching the idea of features and specs as an end goal and implementing Design Thinking, businesses can kill two birds with one stone: They create software that is intuitive, and which also translates smoothly into a visual setting.
As mobile devices, social media and ubiquitous Wi-Fi have become truly prolific, many brand's eCommerce platforms have yet to compensate. A study conducted by IMRG in 2013 claimed that sales via mobile devices account for most of online growth.
This is a clear indication of a major shift in consumer behavior where online shoppers are migrating to mobile devices. For brands that want to win over mobile customers and propel business growth, being mobile ready is not just a matter of choice. Mobile development is now a business imperative for eCommerce brands.
Today's technologically savvy mobile users have little patience when it comes to navigating through a website that is not mobile optimized. Research indicates that almost 30% of buyers using small screen devices abandon a transaction if the web experience is not optimized for mobile.
When viewed on small screens, desktop only websites create many hassles. For example, useful information get buried under multiple layers of awkward menus and ill-fitting content. This will directly lead to a user seeking out rival brands that offer a more seamless transaction experience.
Deterred users will add to the mobile bounce rate if they have to look at illegible text, or if there are no zoom or swipe features in the product gallery. Mobile eCommerce websites have several unique features that provide an appropriate and intuitive online experience to engage mobile users.
According to a report from Forrester Research, U.S. mobile commerce sales are set to grow to more than $110 billion in 2014. Without a standard mobile shopping option, enterprises would find it difficult to cater to the shopping needs of this growing mobile customer base.
A desktop only website cannot adequately attract a mobile user due to the inherently different shopping experiences on smartphones and tablets as compared to desktops. Mobile shoppers prefer a touch friendly display where related products can be instantly selected for comparison, or a simple touch enabled gesture can add items to a cart. They also need larger images and touch-savvy buttons so that unintentional actions are reduced.
Mobile friendly interfaces also provide a great way to present products via touch-enabled photo galleries. Most smartphones are limited by a screen size of 4-5 inches, which requires a brand to be creative in terms of presenting HD images. Such screen size based customization is crucial in the context of mobile shopping, where impulse buyers are plenty and the key to success is user engagement.
An online retailer identified that conversion rates were low for their targeted email campaign. It quickly found out that due to poor display of alerts on mobile devices, users were not receiving a seamless shopping experience. This directly led to them not finishing the purchase process. This inadequate shopping experience on mobile devices led to sufficient revenue loss as well as a negative impact on brand notoriety. The company decided to implement a mobile eCommerce solution to avoid such issues in the future. The new solution provided efficient registration processes and integrated the sign up option with social media accounts. The product display on smaller screens looked sharp, and images and links were redesigned to become touch and swipe friendly.
Within a couple of months, revenue via smartphone channels shot up by almost 90%. And on top of that improvement, mobile traffic increased from 11% to 26% within 3 months. At the same time, customers received a full-fledged mobile shopping experience that helped to strengthen their brand image.
With the enhanced look and feel of a mobile optimized website, brands can create a strong brand relationship with customers. Businesses can edge past their rivals by raking in business from the mobile shoppers.
In order to achieve ROI from a mobile revamped eCommerce site, enterprises need to understand their customer behavior and identify key areas of improvement to work on while developing their mobile strategy. With the right platform and a dedicated technology partner, a brand can take advantage of this seismic shift towards mobility and grown their own revenue and brand notoriety online.