The customer is king, and smart organizations go out of their way to make sure that customers’ expectations are not just met but exceeded—especially when it comes to the technology user experience. But investment in the customer-facing experience often comes at the expense of the investment companies make (if they make any at all) in the experience of those within the enterprise. This is today’s ungainly “experience divide.”
Most people agree that the technology experiences in the consumer world are far more engaging and immersive than those in the enterprise environment. The customer drives revenue, so it makes sense that companies do all that they can to engage those customers with contemporary, enhanced interfaces.
Customers are thus able to consume features and data whenever they want, on whatever device they want, with seamless, consistent, cohesive navigation; intuitiveness; and personalization. Employees inside the enterprise, meanwhile, often suffer with clunky, 1980s- and ’90s-style interfaces and, yes, sometimes green screens.
Although this keep-the-customer-happy model is understandable on its face, my human resources friends consistently remind me that employee engagement should be managers’ top priority, no matter what age group (Millennials, Gen X, Boomers or otherwise) they’re dealing with.
Yet few managers/enterprises know how to make this happen. Most don’t understand that improving the technology experience for the employee is a means to deeper engagement—and, therefore, lower attrition, greater productivity and, ultimately, lower costs.
Organizations typically cite the following reasons for continuing to offer older and/or lower-quality interfaces to their employees:
- It’s difficult and expensive to modernize legacy systems.
- There is a dearth of front-end designers, so it’s difficult to hire skilled staff to update or implement interfaces.
- It’s time-consuming and expensive to train staff on new interfaces.
I believe that traditional enterprise systems themselves make it difficult to offer modern interfaces to employees. For example, so much time and energy is spent on installing and maintaining the foundational plumbing of ERP that organizations don’t have the appetite (or funds) to improve ERP system interfaces after everything is up and running.
As anyone who has filled out a time sheet, completed an expense report or done a performance appraisal in an HRM module will tell you, the traditional ERP experience can be mind-numbingly frustrating. The average manager has been led to believe that it is sufficient to provide the right functionality to employees and that intuitive interfaces are a luxury reserved for a chosen few—namely, external customers. But it’s not okay that customers of, say, Amazon, can order an airplane ticket with just a few clicks but a company’s employees must spend 30 minutes finding the HR form they need.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Some ERP vendors have acquired startups that offer cutting-edge interfaces (such as SAP’s purchase of Roambi and Hybris), but it will be a while before these interfaces are fully integrated and better experiences percolate across the functional suite.
Fortunately, employees don’t have to sit around and wait for that to happen. They should demand that their IT organizations bridge these experience divides—the one between customer and internal applications and, especially, the one between ERP and non-ERP applications.
To build a more effective and engaging employee experience, IT organizations must first develop empathy for employees’ current tech journeys and workflows. IT will also need to make better use of APIs and create a unified information architecture that transcends both the ERP and non-ERP systems. It’s a good idea to partner with a digital systems integrator that has expertise in both ERP and non-ERP integration.
In the end, employees are customers and, as such, kings. Keeping internal customers engaged is key to maintaining competitive edge in today’s digital talent war and reducing the risk of digital disruption.
Post Date: 9/12/2016