Enterprise Software: An evolution from being system-centric to human-centric
As the ‘Green Screens’ are disappearing from system interfaces (they were never human interfaces anyway), and as the ‘tab’ key is becoming obsolete from keyboards (if not keyboards themselves), it is time to acknowledge the human-centricity that is forcing its way into the art of Enterprise Software Development.
With the clear emergence of Consumer-oriented software and technologies that are taking precedence over Enterprise software and technologies, it is not any more about arguing which one is important – it is about synergizing the two and ensuring that the Enterprise Software finds a way to express itself in the human-centric world and delivered in the most context-aware manner possible.
Let’s understand why that is – and what has fundamentally changed which forces this shift. The advent of Consumer Technologies (simply defined as technologies that you and I use) has made users much more empowered, connected and aware. They want to interact with enterprises (and brands) at any point of time in their life and be in control of the decisions and choices they have to make.
To facilitate this, it is very important for businesses and especially the IT teams to not just focus on the traditional mode of streamlining processes and automating systems of records. They need to adopt a bimodal approach where it’s very important to understand how creative and innovative user experience can redefine the way their solution portfolio is perceived, used and evangelized. That’s right – ‘evangelized’, for it is this customer trust about the brand and their advocacy that will lead to Enterprise business value in the future.
The future of Enterprise Software would be about how much is put directly in the hands of the consumer and NOT how much is driven by the Enterprises (example: Connected Devices, networked or truly IoT-ed, have existed for many decades; it is only when they started connecting humans, and not devices, that the proliferation of the technology has vertically scaled).
Similarly, Enterprise software and computing is all set to scale vertically by putting it in the hands of consumers – NOT by focusing on writing software to manage backend business processes, corporate functions and provide interfaces to “push” their products and services to customers, BUT by “assembling” experiences for their customers, by dovetailing the Enterprise Capabilities to consumption patterns and causing users to “interact” with Enterprises more meaningfully. Technology and infrastructure will be mere enablers of superior user experience & meaningful business outcomes.
Traditional Software has overgrown its transactional nature. Time has come to evaluate the intelligence of enterprise software: its sufficient accommodation of aspects such as cognition, experience, connectedness and Human Analytical Capabilities. What was once just talked about in closed labs is becoming the need of the hour. Innovation and Research will now be an integral part of Enterprise Software Development – not a “nice-to-have”.
In my opinion, here are five key areas that need to be adopted right away for Enterprise Software to be able to create the impact and enable businesses to stay agile and ready for the evolving consumer-centric world.
• Think Capabilities – not Projects. Creating capabilities that can be orchestrated into quicker rendering of target functions and experiences will be key to the future. Visualize your enterprise as a set of business, technology, IT and corporate capabilities and start developing them as the Core in a non-project mode. Make Research (on future human trends) and Innovation an integral part of Software Development.
• Assemble Experiences & Features – Everything new need not start from scratch.
Learn from the world of Manufacturing – “assemble” the parts after having designed, engineered and componentized them.
• Develop Human-centric / socially-aware software. The impact of incorporating user behavioral patterns into designing enterprise applications would be paramount to crafting valuable user experiences. To achieve that, software should get more socially aware, to be able to accommodate end-user understanding and differential usage and interaction patterns based on context and capability. This will create interesting business models and Enterprise Software will have to deliver that.
• Focus on Data-intimacy – not Data lakes. Don’t dump the complexity of data & systems on your users. “Complex, Big” Data for Predictive and Advanced Analytics is for the Enterprises. Visualization of “Simple, Small” Data is for the users - information should get very intimate, where users can play around with the data available to them.
• Digital. It is as much about Business Process Transformation as it is about Experience Transformation. Use all of the above to take a stepped approach towards a Process & Experience Transformation in a Digital world than focusing on flooding the user with meaningless Digital Technologies.
With interesting shifts such as these, Enterprise Software will undoubtedly solve more problems, connect more people and make innovation more meaningful.