Enterprise applications are radically different today than they were just five years ago. The rise of custom user experience (UX) design has changed the landscape, and will continue to affect enterprise applications in 2016 and beyond. I was curious what those immediate changes would look like, so I talked with our CEO, Ken McElrath, to get his insights. Here’s what I learned:
1. “Good enough” is no longer enough
For years, employees have adapted their work habits to fit the constraints of how enterprise applications work. These systems were functional, they were “good enough.”
Then the consumer application market took off. These same business users were introduced to beautiful apps that made their lives easier. Suddenly, “good enough” wasn’t enough.“The millennial generation helped push the envelope more quickly than expected,” Ken says.
“As they entered the workforce, they flat-out rejected the clunky apps and interfaces their parents once used." Savvy enterprises have already adapted to the changing landscape, building beautiful and functional apps with custom UX to help their users do their jobs.
In 2016, even more business leaders will see the need to adapt to meet user needs. Those who resist change will continue to struggle with user adoption and system ROI.
2. User needs will rule the day
You can build a beautiful app with sophisticated features, but if your users don’t see the value, they won’t use it. In 2016, enterprise app developers will see the continuation of the “just-right revolution,” where users demand apps that deliver the right data, in the right format, at the right time.
“Some organizations will disregard customer needs and build apps anyway, then blame customer stupidity or the app platform for their failure,” Ken says. “However, organizations that pay careful attention to customer needs will be able to create truly differentiating apps.”
That doesn’t mean you need to blow your budget, or your project timeline, on elaborate usability tests. In fact, according to a study by Nielson Norman Group, 85% of usability problems can be uncovered by surveying the habits of just five users.
Instead of planning a single, extensive usability test, run many tests on small user groups, making agile changes between each test. It’s essential to check in with users early and often during your development process.
3. Hybrid solutions will dominate
When enterprises buy off-the-shelf apps, they can either use them as-is or make customizations. If they choose to customize, they’re investing time and money into a product that might not integrate with other systems their enterprise has purchased.
Instead of manually piecing together information from multiple systems, enterprises want to pull all of their data into a unified user experience. “Over the past few years, we've seen a dramatic shift away from single-source cloud providers to hybrid solutions,” Ken says.
“Instead of spending millions to push data from one cloud to another, enterprises now want to leave data where it rests and assemble apps with user interfaces that combine read-write data from all of their clouds, and even data from their on-premise systems.”
4. UX believers will reap rewards
The benefits of great custom UX design extend far beyond keeping users happy and engaged. In 2015, enterprises that adapted to user needs saw productivity increase and costs decrease. But don’t take it from me.
One of our enterprise clients improved the user experience of just one process in a single department, saving the company $800,000/year in recovered productivity. Check out the case study to see how they did it.
“Enterprises now realize that, like Uber, competitive disruption can be achieved by taking bold new approaches to business reinvention through use-case-focused apps with simple, human-centric interfaces,” Ken says.
5. Enterprises will demand made-to-order apps
While most enterprise software can be customized, there are always limitations to how much you can change. At some point, enterprises will reach the great divide between users’ needs and what’s possible with simple customizations.
With a lot of time and money, custom UX code can deliver a branded, process-driven user experience. But in the end, it sticks you into a different kind of box. To make even small changes, you must pay more money and spend more time waiting for the changes to be implemented.
Instead, enterprises are looking for software that can be infinitely adapted to meet users’ dynamic needs. In 2016, drag-and-drop tools will continue to change the landscape by making custom-built user experiences affordable, agile, and scalable.
“Enterprises will soon be utterly convinced of the value of code-free user interface platforms. But they will also be very frustrated at the big vendors' inability to deliver on their promises,” Ken says.
“Large enterprises will abandon off-the-shelf apps in favor of radically differentiating apps that align to their brand, their unique processes, and their specific use cases. Why buy a non-customizable solution when you can create the perfect solution for much less money?”
6. Consolidations are coming
In 2016 and beyond, we’ll see a consolidation in the cloud industry much like we’ve seen in other sectors of the technology industry. Some consolidations will be driven by cost reduction, while others will be strategic decisions aimed at creating a more valuable product.
“Cloud platforms that deliver little value-add beyond a database will consolidate into low-cost providers, similar to Dell or GM,” Ken says. “Those that focus on design will consolidate into higher cost, high value-add providers that deliver 200% better results to shareholders and customers, similar to Apple or Tesla.”
From consolidations to changing technologies, the enterprise application landscape will shift dramatically in 2016. Not sure if your systems are up to snuff? Check out this blog post by our Director of User Experience, Shannon Hale, that addresses top signs your UX is in trouble. Want to stay ahead in the UX game? Download our free eBook and become a UX champion!