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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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YouTube Music announces Smart Downloads, SA playlists

The service has introduced Smart Downloads which takes allowing users to store and play hundreds of tunes offline, automatically.

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The latest updates from YouTube Music, for subscribers of its Music Premium and Premium services, include a new feature that allows users to switch seamlessly between a song and its music video for an uninterrupted experience.

It has also introduced Smart Downloads which takes the work out of downloading music, allowing users to store and play hundreds of tunes offline, automatically. YouTube Music has also announced new playlists for South Africa. 

The updates all reflect features that are popular on the global leader in music streaming, Spotify, and that have been key to its growth.

YouTube said in a statement on Friday: “Imagine listening to a new track by your favourite artist in the YouTube Music app and having the ability to seamlessly switch over to watch the music video – no pauses, no interruptions, just a simple tap that keeps the music flowing. This standout new feature from YouTube Music allows YouTube Premium and YouTube Music Premium subscribers to make a seamless transition between a song and its music video for uninterrupted listening and/or watching. Whether you’re in the mood for listening or watching (or a little of both)… it’s all here – no app switching required.”

With Smart Downloads, YouTube Music automatically saves music at night, when connected to Wi-Fi, helping subscribers to use less mobile data, enjoy a smoother updating experience and save up to 500 songs offline using Liked Songs playlist as well as other playlists and albums. 


Previously, music lovers could use the Offline Mixtape feature to download up to 100 songs, specifically chosen for them based on what they listened to most on the platform. Now, with Smart Downloads, they select the number of songs they would like automatically downloaded by toggling their YouTube Music Settings. This means YouTube Music Premium subscribers with Smart Downloads enabled on their mobile devices can now access hundreds of tracks regardless of connectivity. 

This feature is currently available on Android, with plans to bring it to iOS in the future.

Click here to read more about YouTube Music playlists, and find out what is inside them.

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Make cars, not waste

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Jaguar Land Rover is trialling an innovative recycling process which converts plastic waste into a new premium grade material that could feature on future vehicles. 

It’s estimated that the amount of waste plastic is predicted to exceed 12 million tonnes globally by 2050*. Today, not all of this plastic can be recycled for use in automotive applications – especially in vehicle parts that are required to meet the most exacting safety and quality standards.

Working in conjunction with chemical company, BASF, Jaguar Land Rover is part of a pilot project called ChemCycling that upcycles domestic waste plastic, otherwise destined for landfill or incinerators, into a new high-quality material. 

The waste plastic is transformed to pyrolysis oil using a thermochemical process. This secondary raw material is then fed into BASF’s production chain as a replacement for fossil resources; ultimately producing a new premium grade that replicates the high quality and performance of ‘virgin’ plastics. Importantly, it can be tempered and coloured making it the ideal sustainable solution for designing the next-generation dashboards and exterior-surfaces in Jaguar and Land Rover models.

Jaguar Land Rover and BASF are currently testing the pilot phase material in a Jaguar I-PACE prototype front-end carrier overmoulding to verify it meets the same stringent safety requirements of the existing original part.

Pending the outcome of the trials and progression in taking chemical recycling to market readiness, adoption of the new premium material would mean Jaguar Land Rover could use domestically derived recycled plastic content throughout its cars without any compromise to quality or safety performance**. 

Chris Brown, Senior Sustainability Manager at Jaguar Land Rover, said: “Plastics are vital to car manufacturing and have proven benefits during their use phase, however, plastic waste remains a major global challenge. Solving this issue requires innovation and joined-up thinking between regulators, manufacturers and suppliers.

“At Jaguar Land Rover, we are proactively increasing recycled content in our products, removing single-use plastics across our operations and reducing excess waste across the product lifecycle. The collaboration with BASF is just one way in which we are advancing our commitment to operating in a circular economy.”

This is the latest example of Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to addressing the challenge of waste plastic. The company has collaborated with Kvadrat to offer customers alternative seat options that are both luxurious and sustainable. The high-quality material, available initially on the Range Rover Velar and Range Rover Evoque, combines a durable wool blend with a technical suedecloth that is made from 53 recycled plastic bottles per vehicle. 

Jaguar Land Rover has already met its 2020 target for Zero Waste to Landfill for UK operations. This includes the removal of 1.3 million m2 – equal to 187 football pitches – of plastic from its manufacturing lineside and replacing 14 million single use plastic items in business operations. 

Together, these efforts are driving towards Jaguar Land Rover’s vision for Destination Zero; an ambition to make societies safer and healthier, and the environment cleaner. Delivered through relentless innovation to adapt its products and services to the rapidly-changing world, the company’s focus is on achieving a future of zero emissions, zero accidents and zero congestion.

Editor’s notes:

https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/7/e1700782.full

** All Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles tested have achieved a Euro NCAP 5* rating.

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