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Consumerization: Designing for People first
29 Jun 2021
First off, what is Consumerization? According to the global research firm, Gartner, it can be defined as is “the specific impact that consumer-originated technologies can have on enterprises. It reflects how enterprises will be affected by, and can take advantage of, new technologies and models that originated in the consumer space, rather than in the enterprise IT sector.”
At Shape – being mobile experience partners for more than a decade – we’ve played an active role in “consumerizing” digital products when developing native apps for enterprises. Smartphones and apps may have been targeted at consumers first but quickly they became indispensable business tools for many enterprises.
B2B companies will adapt – or go out of business
Some call it a revolution from within and that is not far from the truth. Consumerization is embracing your employees, customers and users, accepting that the new frontier of software is tailored for people’s actual needs and not what top management wants for itself. It’s far from a new thing, but we are at a point where consumerization forces enterprises to adapt or go out of business.
Following multiple waves of consumerization such as self-service and digital training to SaaS solutions, UX in Software, Agile Development to keep up with demands and new UI standards – the change is led by tech giants like Apple and Google or companies like Dropbox, Evernote or even AirBnB and Uber.
The tech and the world we live in every day has shifted our expectations to the companies we work for. There is a huge transferral of expectations from the digital products we encounter in our personal life to what we believe we should be able to do in our work-life.
We no longer find ourselves in a world with a desk with pre-installed software. We use apps, we work remotely and we want more freedom to do our work. We see this behaviour reflected in the products and services offered by enterprises but it should also be embedded in the software they develop. We – the people – want better software!
Changing some simple questions
For many years, creating software was led by the question “what do we as a company want?”
With the demand of consumerization the question has changed to “what do our users need?”.
This led to a shift in software for companies where the focus on empowering users is more important than a new product benefit in itself. Companies can no longer compete on just product features. These features are often easily duplicated or not perceived as a point of differentiation by the customers.
Today, it is the overall customer experience or what we could call “the sum of the parts” that becomes the source for gaining competitive advantage. Designers must aim at creating experiences that transcend products and platforms and work for the device the user prefers, whether it’s smartphones, tablets or laptops, each tailored for specific purposes demanded by users. For most established enterprises, the biggest battles to win are probably within these three arenas:
Mobile Experience first
Shifting from a desktop with years of established features and business requirements to a mobile experience first, preferably based on native apps, takes brave new leaders that dare to question the legacy of desktop websites. However, most of the internet traffic today is on mobile devices and most of the time spent on mobile is within native apps. No wonder, really, since the best mobile experiences are still exclusive to native apps because they can take much better advantage of the mobile operating systems.
We want to do our jobs but faster and smarter. Where traditional software focuses on being able to do everything, modern digital products value doing specific things as great as possible. That means crafting quality and not quantity. There is a need to optimize workflows and tailor them better to the way that users actually wish to work.
Companies can no longer expect people to work on just one platform. That puts pressure on the infrastructure of the IT in its ability to handle collaboration and synchronization across users, platforms – all in real-time. Waiting more than a few seconds for an IT system is starting to feel old. Very old.
User Experience Design: The Secret Sauce
It is important to realise that the company's strategy and business goals are still equally important but needs to be translated to a the kind of user experience that puts people first. We can no longer go for building features directly from a business point of view.
Leading a change into consumerization can be empowered by involving a product team into decision making and using their expertise to bridge the gap between strategy and execution. A product team that might consist of both strategists, designers and developers. Tomorrow’s software crafts a company's strategy into every pixel while designing a People First experience benchmarked against the software we use in our private life.
Understanding the business goals and the users needs when designing a product unleash the potential that creates value both for the enterprise and its users. This sweet spot is where business results go hand in hand with user engagement. To locate and lead both the enterprise and users to the sweet spot means that business processes must be facilitated in a way that allows for greater user benefits.
E.g. in our work for Fitness World we’ve expanded the mobile platform so it now works as the go-to-destination for not only booking classes but also as a personal fitness companion when you’re at home. Fitness World couldn’t grow its business during the COVID-19 lock-down but it could add value to existing subscriptions by offering home classes and outdoor training programs.
We see a great User Experience as a result of collaboration between different roles within the Product Team. Business Goals and Strategy owners can deliver company insights for Designers who represent users and the People First approach that the product requires to be a success. They will ultimately have to work closely together with Developers to complete the experience and vision for the product. The collaboration and exchange of ideas of these three contributors is crucial for reaching the standard that users expect.
However, many enterprises are struggling with a cross-function collaboration as roles, titles and responsibilities often live in a siloed hierarchy or departments that are optimising for their own unit instead of the overall customer experience.
Start today with these questions
If you’re up for this challenge – which you need to be as there’s really no way around it - then you can ask yourself a few questions to fuel the process.
What are the biggest problems we fail to address and solve on behalf of our users?
Are our users using platforms we do not support or offer?
Are our users asking for for ways to work we do not support?
How could we make our processes more effective by “consumerizing” them, ie. make them more user-friendly?
Am I using software in my private life that makes work tools seem outdated - and why?
Finding areas or initiatives based on these questions is a great place to start. Joining forces with designers and product teams can help you form a vision and roadmap that will transform your company over time.
Many start-up companies are disrupting established businesses by simply designing their business from a User Experience perspective. For most established companies, consumerization is no longer just an interesting idea but a necessary strategic choice to to make to survive in the future. And not just to survive; it’s also the key to both keeping and winning B2B customers as their expectations are continously transferred from their experiences as consumers and private persons.