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Consumerisation changes rules for software experience

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The consumerisation trend has massively raised the bar for what we expect of our business applications. Together with emerging technologies like AR, VR, and voice activation, this redefines enterprise software experience, says Dan Matthews, CTO at IFS.

User engagement and profitability

The clear link between user engagement and profitability is beyond doubt. This has been apparent on the consumer side for years. Moreover, just look at Walmart’s massive 2016 redesign of its UX and ecommerce platform, which resulted in 214% growth in digital visitors, and Bank of America, which increased its online banking registration by 45% after a UX redesign of the process.

Surprisingly little research is available on the topic of how enterprise software usability affects profitability. In my discussions with customers, I see that businesses are increasingly realising that UX correlates closely to user engagement. The implications of successful UX make it way more than just a satisfaction ranking. Increased workforce engagement is tied closely to improved performance, motivation and persistence, before we even get to effectiveness, time and cost savings, or the improved employer branding advanced UX applications give. All of this results in increased profitability.

An IFS usability study of over 200 enterprise software users in industrial companies found a strong correlation between digital transformation and software usability. Respondents who said their enterprise software prepared them for digital transformation, for instance, were 400 percent more likely to say their enterprise software was very easy to use. Software usability can also affect employee retention among experienced staff. In the same survey, almost 46 percent of the middle-age demographic would consider changing jobs due to poor enterprise software usability.

One concrete example is Deloitte, which states that incorporating usability into the redesign of a client’s ERP systems led to a 300% increase in worker productivity, a 55% reduction in training time and a 21% improvement in upsell and cross-sell. It is apparent that there is a close correlation between business success and software usability in the enterprise market as well.

Key trends reshaping enterprise software UX

A couple of strong trends from the consumer market are redefining the meaning of enterprise software UX today. Let’s take a closer look at those.

Consumerisation: The consumerisation trend has been ramping up for a couple of years now and consists of two interconnected developments:

–          Mobile is the new normal: As we use mobile phones for everything in our personal lives, this also raises the bar for how we expect to use enterprise software on our phones. A growing number of organisations are implementing responsive designs that adapt across platforms and screen sizes to allow various mobile devices to interact with business software. “Mobile first” has become a common UX strategy for consumer software. Although in enterprises the majority of work is still done on laptops and desktops, mobile has to be an equal possibility for users. So, whereas mobile first might apply for a number of specific business processes within enterprise software, mobile as a choice applies to all processes.

–          Consumerised usage behaviours: As people are getting used to swiping on their smartphones and using chat apps, such as WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger, this quick interaction has also become what they expect from enterprise software. Delivering an intuitive, clean and visually appealing UX that allows quick actions without going through too many steps before performing a task is a must. This has been the motivator behind IFS enabling companies in China to interact with IFS Applications through the popular WeChat social networking service.

Personalisation: Rapidly increasing data volumes within organisations have made it even more urgent to personalise information and make it available at a glance. The CEO needs top-level financial data whereas the service engineer may need the latest asset status from the energy plant or manufacturing line. Role-based user interfaces have been developed to meet these individual needs. When paired with new technologies such as AI and machine learning, the role-based interface can also become intelligent, predicting how you want your personalised interface displayed and automatically adapting what information is shown, for example depending on the device you use and how much is practical to display. The future user interfaces will be smart and evolve to learn from your past actions and preferences.

Voice and chat UX:  UX does not just have to be visual, forms and lists. Consumer-focused interfaces, such as Siri, Cortana and Alexa, have accelerated the adoption of voice and chat as an interface in the enterprise arena as well. The benefits are clear; you can search for data and perform tasks within your system using voice or chat through Skype, Messenger, or any other channel instead of having to use a dedicated enterprise application and click through endless menus and structures. This provides vital benefits for casual users, who can interact in a more convenient way, and for professionals such as service engineers, who can use their hands when repairing an asset while searching for instructions using their voice.

Virtual, augmented or mixed—reality becomes a UX: Moving us even further beyond screen display or voice notions of UX, is the growing take-up of AR and VR. Since its start 10 years ago, augmented reality has matured fast. Companies like XMReality offer AR remote guidance, where field service experts can help maintenance engineers in the field solve complex problems as if they were physically present. Such technologies have gone from being exploratory R&D projects to mature solutions extraordinarily quickly, and it will not take long before we see broader adoption.

Another opportunity to leverage these technologies is through mixed reality, which combines augmented reality and virtual reality using devices such as the Microsoft HoloLens. Imagine service engineers who can visualise data from the business software directly on an asset that is to be serviced via their safety glasses. This will make it possible to work on repairing the asset with both hands, while having the service instructions right in front of their eyes! The intuitive, easy-to-use UX of mixed reality, combined with enterprise software data, could reshape how we think about enterprise UX in the future. This scenario is actually an ongoing research project within IFS Labs.

How do you measure user engagement?

The technologies discussed above are in varying states of maturity. But no matter what technology is used, measuring the success of your software UX will always be key. User engagement is so important today that it must be monitored just like customer satisfaction or other important KPIs. You can do it in a number of ways, from having the users rank features in a usability index, track when and how features are used, or arrange feedback sessions with user groups. UX also has an impact on important business metrics such as employee productivity and employee satisfaction (and retention). It is important not only to assess all of these parameters before, during and at the end of a specific implementation, but they should also be continual gauges of operational success.

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CES: So long, and thanks for all the beer!

Last week, the Las Vegas expo showed off its fun side with state-of-the-art technologies for enjoying beer, writes BRYAN TURNER

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From craft beer-making machines to robots that pour beer, CES had more beer than usual in Las Vegas last week. And even free beer if you found the right stand. Stampede’s saloon-style booth offered beer to visitors who tried out its latest drones, virtual reality, and other gaming products. No beer tech, though.

Here are some of the beer technologies that stood out:

LG HomeBrew – Craft beer made at home

LG’s HomeBrew craft beer-making machine,  debuted at CES 2019, brings the brewing process home thanks to single-use capsules,  a self-cleaning feature, and an algorithm optimised for fermentation. 

Like a Nespresso coffee machine, the beer maker uses capsules, which contain malt, yeast, hop oil and flavouring. At the press of a button, LG HomeBrew automates the whole procedure from fermentation and carbonation to ageing. A companion app lets users check HomeBrew’s status at any time during the process, from their handsets.

The beer machine not only offers a simple way to make craft beer, but also enhances the quality of beer it makes. The fermentation algorithm intelligently controls the fermenting process with precise temperature and pressure control. It automatically sanitises itself, using nothing more than hot water, ensuring everything is hygienically clean for the next batch.

Designed with discerning beer lovers in mind, HomeBrew allows for in-home production of batches of more than 4 litres of beer in a variety of styles. The following five distinctive, flavoured beers are available now: 

  • Hoppy American IPA
  • Golden American Pale Ale
  • Full-bodied English Stout
  • Zesty Belgian-style Witbier
  • Dry Czech Pilsner

The only catch? It takes about two weeks to make, depending on the beer type.

“LG HomeBrew is the culmination of years of home appliance and water purification technologies that we’ve developed over the decades,” said Dan Song, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “Homebrewing has grown at an explosive pace, but there are still many beer lovers who haven’t taken the jump because of the barriers to entry, like complexity, and these are the consumers we think will be attracted to LG HomeBrew.”

Click here to read about the party speaker that holds beer and robots that pour beer.

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CES: Alienware gets Legend-ary

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At CES in Las Vegas last week, Dell’s Alienware released a family of high-end, thin, light, and affordable machines for both amateur and professional gamers – and a new identity.

Alienware marked CES 2019 as a brand milestone with the debut of a new design identity, Alienware Legend. It aims to set a new bar of excellence for what gamers want most – performance and function. Alienware says it evaluated multiple concepts and chose one that was the biggest and boldest departure from its current look.

Alienware Legend, says the company, stays true to the brand’s core design tenets, taking cues from its deep roots in sci-fi culture and its early industrial designs, to distinguish the brand from the rest of the industry. The new Legend design is optimised with cutting-edge thermal cooling technology to achieve and sustain overclocking power, improved AlienFX lighting, and ultra-thin screen borders. It also unveiled a new “three-knuckle hinge” design that reduces the overall dimension while creating a stronger assembly, all combining to yield a better gaming experience.

“We’re excited to come to this year’s CES with some truly groundbreaking products, next-gen software and strategic partnerships that will bring more people to experience PC gaming and advance the industry,” said Frank Azor, vice president and general manager of Alienware. “The legend design answers the call for more and better from our gaming community, and the new G Series laptops will make PC gaming even more accessible to those looking for high-performance gaming at a cost they can appreciate.”

Click here to read about Alienware Legend in action with the Area-51m and m-series laptops

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