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What enterprise software developers can learn from consumer apps

Michael Nadeau | Feb. 2, 2017
With employees frustrated by complex, confusing enterprise apps, companies have been taking cues from consumer world and mobile-first development approach to eliminate paperwork and bolster ROI.

Self-service that employees actually use

Not just students, industry officials say. That advice extends to employees and other stakeholders, as well.

"The user experience outweighs everything else that we do with application development, whether it's in-house or off the shelf," says Onyeka Nchege, CIO of Interstate Batteries. "When it comes to adoption, you want an app that people will use and stick with. The last thing we want to provide is an app that employees, customers or partners don't use because it is cumbersome or tech heavy."

Interstate's approach to app development began a few years ago with the mission of modernizing its technology, broadly. Nchege says that the 64-year-old company, the nation's leading battery-replacement firm, had under-invested in tech and determined that it was time to replace its core systems, including human resources. For that, Interstate chose Workday.

"Workday was a big piece for our first foray into providing self-service apps," Nchege says.

Before Workday, employees who needed to modify their personnel or benefits information had to submit the changes on paper. That information would then be keyed in manually. Now, employees make those changes through an app that directly updates the core system. Nchege describes the response from employees to the new app as "overwhelmingly positive."

Interstate's human resources team is also seeing the benefits. Not only are they now more productive from no longer keying in employee information, apps developed through Workday have allowed them to automate many other processes they had been doing manually. Even simple things like giving executive assistants the ability to look up employee birthdays without manually maintaining a spreadsheet has boosted productivity.

Personalized user experience

Part of Interstate's success is due to the fact that developers took the time to understand the people who would be using the apps and the tasks that they performed. Workday supports this approach by creating user personas, according to Joe Korngiebel, senior vice president of user experience at Workday. "Personas humanize the end user: 'Meet Travis. He's a recent grad, likes Uber, and grew up a digital native. Sarah is a first-time skipper, her first foray into management,'" Korngiebel says.

Korngiebel explains that creating these personas puts app developers in "a much better place" by providing a human context. Developers can better visualize how the end user will apply the app. Workday currently provides 14 primary personas that its customers can use as is, or modify for their needs.

Korngiebel places a lot of emphasis on the need for design thinking. In his rubric, design thinking entails gathering all the stakeholders together to understand the processes, how the apps might enable those processes, and what absolutely needs to be in the app. The ability to conceptualize how the app works and will be used is critical to keeping it simple and effective.


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