A recent study from app development company Sapho revealed details about what employees want from workplace apps. The survey involved 109 business and IT leaders from large organizations. Respondents provided some interesting insights into some significant issues which should serve as food for thought for organizations using, developing or selling enterprise software.
- 76% of respondents say it "takes too long to complete tasks" using the software.
- 69% stated "multiple business apps also cause inefficient data access."
- 69% found issues with the inability to gain "a holistic view of something important," meaning more of a bird's-eye approach is needed to fully understand what software is telling them.
- 65% reported they ignoring data and 62% admit to making bad decisions due to outdated information.
- 62% said "they require the help of others to access data."
- 57% said they need the assistance of others to get benefit from the data.
- 55% have to manually retrieve information rather than getting it through the technology.
I spoke about the survey with Natalie Lambert, vice president of marketing at Sapho to find out more about their recommendations for handling the above concerns.
TR: What's the first insight of note as a result of your study?
NL: "Legacy systems must be modernized: Many large organizations have business critical data and processes stuck in these systems and the cost and complexity to migrate them is too high. However, as new employees come into the organization and the current generation of employees leaves, the number of people that can use these systems is decreasing quickly. These systems need to be modernized - not replaced - to allow new employees to use them, any employee to complete necessary tasks on them, and all employees to have mobile access to them. The same can be said for more current applications that don't have easy-to-use mobile interfaces. All existing systems and applications should get a facelift to make them accessible and usable by your employee base from anywhere, on any device. This approach meets the requirements of the survey respondents that know they need to find a way to upgrade systems, but can only do it if it doesn't impact current systems."
TR: What are the current needs of workers regarding apps?
NL: "Employees want a system that simplifies their life. They want a solution that aggregates data and tasks from multiple systems so they don't have to work - and log into - multiple systems. To combat this, look at solutions which sit on top of enterprise systems, unify data across them, monitor for changes that matter, and identify important information and associated actions that employees need to know about. The solution should then deliver the information and tasks through a single feed that allows employees to review data and take action immediately, eliminating the need to constantly log in and out of various systems.
Employees want flexibility in how they receive information: Employees use multiple devices and apps every day. And ultimately, it is through these channels that they want to receive information. This is why the survey respondents said that the most important capability of a new solution is the ability to deliver business information to employees using their existing channels, such as their mobile or laptop devices, browsers, email or communications platforms.
TR: Is complexity a problem when it comes to overly convoluted apps, especially with mobile devices?
NL: "Yes. Employees want their apps and data personalized to them: Employees are struggling with information overload. They are currently spending an average of one day a week searching for information across their various systems. Thus, it is no surprise that approximately 74% of respondents to the survey said they'd prefer to access a subset of personalized data rather than a comprehensive data set. In addition, employees said they would like personalized notifications based on the tasks or actions that they need to complete.
The majority of enterprise software is bloated with too many features and too much data for one single employee to digest, let alone act on. In addition, with so many enterprise systems, the problem is exacerbated - in just two years, the number of systems that employees must use has gone up 25%. 62% of employees delay completing tasks that require logging into multiple systems because it simply takes too long. Employees want a solution that aggregates data and tasks from multiple systems so they don't have to work across systems. We are doubling down on machine learning. Machine learning was always at the core of Sapho, and we are adding more features such as recommended actions based on a user's historical actions and also suggestions based on their organization's norms. The idea here is to learn over time what a user likes, what they usually do, and what their organization expects, to make everyone's job easier."
TR: How strong is the focus on mobile access to business systems?
NL: "Employees want a mobile-first experience and increased productivity: Employees also now expect a mobile-first experience at work, as stated by 69% of respondents in the study. This does not mean they want to ditch all of their desktop software, but instead, they want to use software that was designed with mobile in mind. When software is built assuming a small screen, tiny keyboard, limited internet connectivity and processing power, apps become simple and easy to use.
This is the driver behind micro apps - they are small, single purpose, and drive a single task to completion. They are not, on the other hand, full-featured 'mobile' apps that attempt to mirror the functionality of desktop apps. Micro apps can help employees complete their tasks and are instantly delivered to employees on their choice of device, including smartphones, tablets, and laptops/desktops."
TR: How are IT leaders planning to address some of these difficulties?
NL: "IT leaders are aware of the problems with enterprise aps, but are also concerned that upgrading or replacing systems may be too costly or take too much time. A majority (53%) would prioritize this to help broaden access to information for workers if this could take place without adversely impacting their existing environments."
TR: What else can you comment on?
NL: "A few parting thoughts:
Omnichannel development is critical for today's modern workforce. While companies need to make existing systems accessible and usable by employees from any device, it's important to note that a 'mobile-only' platform will fail. This is the new reality: meet users where they are by delivering real-time updates and tasks to mobile, desktop, intranet, and messengers like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and IBM Watson Workspace.
One size doesn't fit all; personalization is the key to increasing employee productivity; customize workplace software and workflows for specific users Leverage machine learning to learn about your user and deliver the updates they care most about.
Moving beyond efficiency and towards overall effectiveness takes a new system of engagement. Build small, task-specific apps that deliver simple solutions to complex problems - and ultimately enable employees to be more effective.
Monitor for system changes or events and push them proactively to users, rather than forcing them to go looking for them, so this will enable them to stay ahead of the curve.
Focus on the big picture: develop a system of engagement that modernizes system interfaces and delivers simple micro apps and workflows to engage employees and accelerate the speed of business."
For the full details, download the report from Sapho's website
G2 Crowd: Crowdsourced software reviews lead to enterprise insights
Report: Unused enterprise software is costing businesses a fortune
5 steps to help your employees adopt new software
Is this the new era of big software?
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.