For a few years now, we've heard about the "consumerization of IT" and how our expectations for technology in the enterprise are converging with our expectations for the consumer-based technology we use at home. We want -- no, we demand a consistent user experience (UX) and features and capabilities whether at home or at work.
In her keynote address at the recent Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference in Orlando, Florida, Microsoft Office GM Julia White (@julwhite) talked about this shift in user expectations, referring to “the Millennial Effect” that is creating change across the technology spectrum, where all of us (not just Millennials) are more connected now than ever before, and how the tools we use in our personal lives are finding their way into the workplace -- and vice versa. No longer are we satisfied with one user experience at home (usually a much better UX) and another at work (which can be more structured, and less visually pleasing). End users want more flexibility in how they work and where they work, they want control over the devices they use, they want more personalization options, and they want the ability to connect with and leverage the collective knowledge of both internal and external communities, and both personal and professional connections.
End users want more flexibility in how they work and where they work
I think most people would agree with this vision. There are, however, real-world implications for many of our business processes, systems, and tools – sometimes making it difficult to bridge the needs of work with the desire to merge them with the technologies we use at home. Building, delivering, and supporting software and services for the enterprise is not the same as developing consumer-focused solutions -- although the lines are beginning to blur. Solutions for the enterprise need to be more structured and predictable, allowing organizations to review, set up training and support, and monitor and manage on the back-end. On the flip side, solutions for consumers have little to none of this administration overhead. Organizations may have internal and external guidelines that they need to follow, while consumers can largely do what they want.
Organizations may have internal and external guidelines that they need to follow, while consumers can largely do what they want
As end users begin to merge their consumer technology expectations with their work system requirements, they are becoming more vocal about what they want, and more demanding regarding the tools and systems they use. A great example is the recent announcement that Yammer would discontinue document conversations, which was an effort to embed Yammer conversations inside files stored in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint Online. The feature had been announced in late 2014 and touted as one way to fill the gap for deprecated social features in native SharePoint on prem environments, and to entice more of these on prem customers to adopt Yammer and the cloud. With the latest change, Microsoft announced that the file preview and edit capabilities inside Yammer would be immediately replaced by the Office Online native capabilities, with real-time co-authoring and document translation coming in early 2016.
Microsoft made this change knowing exactly how much the feature was being used (they have detailed analytics on all features within their cloud platform) and the impact it would have. The issue for most end users responding to this change was twofold: while the data showed little usage of the feature by the mainstream user base, it was important functionality for a sub-set of power users, who, arguably, are the primary drivers of adoption to the platform. The other issue brought up was the change to the user experience: selecting edit in Yammer now opens a separate tab where the user can edit within the Office Online UI, and the lack of document-level conversations.
Microsoft made this change knowing exactly how much the feature was being used and the impact it would have
Again, the issue is not the fact that Microsoft made a change -- clearly, this move leverages the richer capabilities within the Office Online tools, better aligns Yammer with the Office 365 platform, and they have the data behind the change showing that it impacts a small sub-set of users -- but with the rate of change for enterprise customers. While people expect innovation at the speed of the cloud, they also expect some consistency and stability in core capabilities. Management teams need to be able to prepare for new capabilities, including training and process/support changes. Likewise, removal of features can have a huge impact, with business processes built around these capabilities
During his vision keynote at WPC, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella mentioned numerous times the theme of 'business transformation' and how Microsoft -- and all other companies -- must adjust to the new realities of the cloud, of rapid innovation cycles, and of evolving customer expectations, stating emphatically "I want us to center in on: What's the value we are adding to the core of our customers and their ability to compete, their ability to create innovation?"
I want us to center in on: What's the value we are adding to the core of our customers and their ability to compete, their ability to create innovation? Satya Nadella
I agree with these statements -- but I've also learned through my career that it is not only what you do, but how you do it. In a previous blog post, Beezy CEO Jordi Plana talked about we were leading an enterprise collaboration revolution, extending the Microsoft vision of "cloud-first, mobile-first" with our goal to develop solutions that are also "user-first." So while strategies change, and architectural and feature decisions may evolve, we need to make these changes in a way that keep the user experience front and center. Sometimes the right decision for the customer may not be the best option for the long-term platform – but at the end of the day, the focus should be on the customer. Customer needs and product roadmap are not mutually-exclusive: they must work together.
Customer needs and product roadmap are not mutually-exclusive: they must work together.
The user experience does not start with the login to an application, and end with the closing of a browser. Our enterprise collaboration solutions are just one part of the overall user experience that we work hard to support. As Jordi concluded in his post, the reality is that the evolving workplace requires constant innovation -- and innovation is part of who we are and what we will continue to deliver to our customers. But we will always deliver that innovation while keeping in mind the end-to-end customer experience, and ensure that our solutions come with a clear path to those changes.
Contact us if you wish to find out more about Beezy.