While your customers bask in the warm rays of your digital efforts, are your employees toiling away in the dark recesses of your enterprise, pecking data into arcane screens as they struggle to retain a thread of sanity under the onslaught of management practices from the 1930s?
Digital means customer preferences and behavior are driving enterprise technology decisions to be sure, but let’s not forget our employees. After all, when we say customer, we mean customer writ large, including partners, supply chain participants, and yes, those salaried denizens whose daily labor forms the cornerstone of the enterprise.
Today, as Millennials gradually enter the workforce, to become the majority as soon as the end of the decade, understanding how to properly support the employee journey as a type of customer journey is increasingly important – not just for digital natives, but for all of us old fuddy-duddies who would prefer to use our phones for many tasks as well, just as our kids do.
Take Digital to the Extreme
In the last two Cortex newsletters, I discussed customer journeys and how they cut across traditional architectural layers in the enterprise architecture. This cross-cutting nature requires a rethink of how organizations leverage all their resources, both technology and human, to meet customer needs over time.
The same rethink is just as necessary for our employees as well, for the usual reasons: recruitment, retention, and productivity. Enterprises must get digital right internally as well as externally to attract the right people, keep them happy, and get the most out of them. What, then, does it mean to get the employee journey right?
In reality, companies don’t really need to get digital right, at least not right away. It generally suffices for your digital efforts to be just a bit better than your competition. This Cortex would not be accomplishing its goals, however, if we simply explained how to suck a bit less.
Instead, we’ll lay out the best advice we possibly can, given all the technological and organizational advances we have at our disposal – what we call extreme digital principles – this time, focusing on the employee journey.
Extreme Principle #1: Mobile-First Interactivity
The notion of mobile-first gets a lot of lip service today, but in many cases people misunderstand its full significance. Ostensibly, mobile-first design means thinking about the mobile interface to an application before you think about web or other interfaces. The result is a user experience (UX) that centers on mobile UX best practices.
However, mobile-first interactivity isn’t page-centric or screen-centric, it’s app-centric. We’re so accustomed to page-centric UX because the web is page-centric – but the page metaphor is an awkward fit on a phone.
When we discuss the employee journey, we must also distinguish mobile-centric from screen-centric, since so many enterprises still depend so heavily on screen-centric UX. However, the screen metaphor dates from the client/server days, and was a poor fit for the web. Now it’s even more awkward on mobile.
Extreme Principle #2: User-Centric Workflows
If you google employee journey mapping, you’ll soon discover the concept isn’t new. In fact, the notion is well-worn in human resources (HR) circles. And to be sure, many of the important interactions or ‘mobile moments’ on the employee journey are HR-related: interviewing, getting hired, dealing with benefits, leaving a job, etc.
Predictably, such workflows are HR-centric. The underlying software that supports them is HR software, which tends to drop the ball whenever steps on the workflow aren’t within the HR domain.
Instead, we must put the employee at the center of any workflow that touches his or her journey, with the realization that a lot of what matters to an employee doesn’t involve HR at all, or only touches HR in part.
A simple, common example: let’s say you lose your work badge. You find the ‘replace work badge app,’ click it, and you’re done. Behind the scenes, the workflow involves HR, facilities, and security – all hidden from view.
Extreme Principle #3: Extreme Data Entry
Data entry screens are the bane of any large company (or government) employee’s life. They are tedious, complex, and error-prone – and in reality, inherit the worst of screen-centric UX. Moving them to the web was a scant improvement, and trying to shoehorn them onto a phone is a recipe for exasperation.
Implementing responsive design is an improvement to be sure – fewer fields, easier buttons, and other now-familiar elements of proper mobile UX. But there’s one remaining problem: we still have to type with our thumbs. And no one wants to enter data with their thumbs.
The extreme solution: leverage modern capabilities like speech recognition, bar code/QR code scanning, and machine learning to eliminate text data entry altogether – or at least, as much as possible.
We all like to joke about the vagaries of autocorrect, but we also realize that such technology is rapidly improving. Just how smart do our phones have to be before we can fill in, say, an entire customer record without having to type a single word?
Extreme Principle #4: Extreme Governance and Security
The more we empower employees with their devices, the greater the risk of a cybersecurity attack, a compliance breach, or perhaps simply a serious screw-up. We clearly can’t do without the appropriate governance and security controls – but we must still take an employee-centric approach.
The solution: automate governance constraints, where anything goes within the boundaries of those constraints. The boundaries here are no longer the network perimeter, but rather policy boundaries that maintain the compliance and security priorities of the organization while allowing employees the leeway they need to get their jobs done.
Extreme Principle #5: Extreme Touchpoint Context Sensitivity
Employees certainly prefer to use their smartphones in many situations – but not all phones are created equal, and in many cases people prefer other touchpoints. Mobile-first doesn’t mean mobile-only, after all.
Every app – in fact, every capability – must be sensitive to the context of the touchpoint the employee happens to be using at the time. If the device has GPS, then leverage location information. Does it have a big screen? Then adjust the display accordingly – and so on.
You can think of this principle as responsive design on steroids, recognizing the fact that depending on the situation, an employee might be using a specialized piece of equipment, from a forklift to a jet engine. The device may or may not be handheld. It may not even have a screen.
Extreme Principle #6: Extreme Self-Service
Employees would prefer to find the apps they need in an enterprise app store, and be able to call upon those apps as needed for any aspect of their day-to-day work. IT must rise to this challenge, supporting such app store capabilities while handling governance, security, and other details behind the scenes.
The extreme part of this self-service story is the realization that such interactions go both ways. Employees don’t only want to get services via apps, they also want to provide services in the same way. Any employee, after all, might be a publisher or a contributor.
Encourage, support, empower, facilitate these citizen developers, data analysts, integrators, process designers, etc. Any time anyone solves a problem in a new way, they should be able to share that solution so that people can find and use it, within the automated governance constraints.
The end result is a community of services from multiple sources, accessible via app store-centric capabilities including intelligent search, recommendations, and gamification. We’re taking the ‘citizen’ movement, combining it with the now-obsolete corporate intranet, making it all mobile-first, and then taking it to its natural extreme.
Extreme Principle #7: Extreme User Context
Employees may interact with a wide variety of touchpoints in their day-to-day work. They have their own smartphone. Their desktop or laptop computer. Perhaps they still have a landline phone. And then they also interact with videoconferencing gear in meeting rooms, kiosks in lobbies, as well as whatever specialized equipment might be germane to their particular jobs.
As employees move throughout their day, these devices should work in concert to recognize each person, and furthermore, to maintain an ongoing user context. Your smartphone knows who you are and what you’re doing now, so when you walk into that meeting room, the videoconferencing system should as well.
We have examples of this user context already. For example, if you use a virtual desktop, then you can log into any computer and it presents your desktop in the state you left it. Google does a good job of making sure each device knows your Google ID, and thus if you edit, say, a document in Google Drive on your phone and then switch to a laptop, the same document appears there as well.
Let’s take these types of experiences and take them to the extreme, so as you go through your day, all the technology around you knows who you are and what you’re doing, even when many people are working together.
The Intellyx Take
Follow all the principles in this Cortex and you’re sure to have happy, productive employees (click here to subscribe to the Cortex.) But never forget that digital is about the broader population of customers, of which employees are but an important part.
All of these principles, therefore, should also translate to your broader audience. You can empower your extended enterprise of partners, suppliers, and yes, even customers to take advantage as appropriate.
Not every capability in the hands of employees makes sense for customers, of course – but don’t take anything for granted. As you proceed on your digital transformation journey, use the progress you make with employees to begin new conversations on how your organization can better serve customers as well.