5 Lessons Enterprise Solutions Can Learn From Consumer Applications

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In our personal lives, we have well-designed consumer apps to delight us and make even the most complex transactions simple. Many enterprise applications, however, are a bit behind the times. For an enterprise app to be successful in today's tech world, they need to be consumer-grade. Here's why.
Enterprise-App-Designed-like-Consume.jpgWe’ve all been living with smartphones, app culture, and cloud storage for a while now. We’re used to the finer things: instant access, easy collaboration, cross-device capabilities. In our personal lives, we have sleek, well-designed consumer applications to delight us and make even the most complex financial transactions as simple as a few swipes of the thumb. Many enterprise applications, however, are a bit behind the times. But it’s becoming clearer that, to succeed in the twenty-first century, there needs to be a design revolution in the enterprise and apps need to be consumer-grade. Here are five good reasons why.

Moving to the cloud

If your employees are spending their time creating MacGyver-esque workarounds to get day-to-day work done in spite of your enterprise software, you know something is wrong. Also, it’s the twenty-first century. No one should be working with programs that are several years out of date. But that’s just what happens when IT departments are faced with the prospect of taking as much as a year to upgrade a lumbering ogre of an enterprise application.

More and more, enterprises are moving to cloud-based software. On the cloud, savings are everywhere. It’s cheaper and easier to operate and manage your apps because you don’t have to maintain your own servers. And the growing capacity of cloud storage means your solutions are suddenly much easier to scale. Perhaps most importantly, your employees are always using the latest version, every time they log in. All of this means your IT department can get ahead of the game and your employees will always have the tools they need to turn time into money.

Simple > Complicated

The purchase of enterprise software has historically been a top-down decision. This has led to over-designed initial platforms that are still somehow inflexible, one-size-fits-all solutions. But as enterprises continue to adopt lean, agile organizational structure, they are beginning to see value in the simple design principles of consumer applications. Unlike their overburdened enterprise counterparts, consumer applications excel at onboarding new users with simple design. Because most consumer apps are free, this simplicity of design is the whole ball game: if users can’t figure the app out quickly, they bail. Game over.

Maybe your employees don’t have the option to bail on your enterprise apps, but their experience with your software is going to have a big effect on the quality of the work they can do with it. Investing in an enterprise app with consumer-grade UX means your employees get on board faster and get excited to use the tool. Once they’re into it, they’ll be self-motivated to master the app and get as much benefit from it as possible. Which means greater efficiency for your company, at scale. It’s that simple, really.

Easier rollout

OK, so your IT department can now handle anything you throw at them without breaking a sweat, thanks to the efficiency of the cloud, and your employees are in lurve with the first few simple, well-designed enterprise apps you’ve introduced them to. From here on out, it just gets easier to adapt to changing circumstances.

Every time you need a new consumer-grade enterprise app in your toolkit, you can be sure that rollout will be seamless. That’s partly thanks to the superior agility of the apps you’ve chosen, but it’s also because your commitment to using consumer-grade enterprise apps has translated to a culture of agility and willingness to get on board with changes. More of your employees are picking up the new tools, and they’re picking them up faster. That means you can expect to reach your ROI (Return On Investment) faster and build a more flexible, efficient work culture while you’re at it.

Pricing makes sense

Consumer-grade enterprise apps not only provide scalable efficiency and simplicity, they also give you clarity on your budget—unlike enterprise solution pricing. You might use a greater number of more specialized apps, but each comes with a straightforward price that you know up front. No per-user pricing, usage parameters, or hidden fees. And because you’re not betting the farm on a single solution, you don’t have to worry about the often astronomical costs of replacing failed software, or running dual systems, or trying to customize or upgrade your way out of a hole, or . . . well, we could go on, but we’re starting to reach the bummer threshold here.

A little pleasure never killed nobody

Consumer applications do everything in their power to delight and entertain their users. It’s how they survive. Enterprise applications tend to be a little more blah. But they don’t have to be. No one is saying your enterprise solutions have to have the enduring entertainment value of, say, watching a baby panda sneeze on YouTube, but it just makes sense to value a little lightheartedness in the apps you know your employees will be spending a lot of time mastering. We’ve given shoutouts to MailChimp and Slack for making us snortle throughout the work day. Both apps are great examples of how you can raise employee morale with just a few little touches of humor.

The value of delighting your employees may be hard to quantify. But the delight of using consumer-grade enterprise apps is changing the way we approach work and the emotional lives of the people doing it. The more your enterprise solutions take into account the things that make users feel happy and creative—ease of access on the cloud, simple UX and onboarding, fun and flexible workflows—the easier it will be for you to build a happier, more productive work culture while saving on your software budget and supercharging your ROI.
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