Users care, all of them

Monday mornings are a struggle, least because it’s ‘Monday’, the dramatic change in experience of using personal devices and apps Sunday evening at home to using company provided devices and apps. Some call it the Sunday-Monday-morning syndrome. Personal tech estate has become more affordable and in most cases better than the one company provided — and this has happened more tellingly in the past few years. We can blame tad bit of that on Moore’s law. In all the employee experience has with the company, and it’s IT, is reaching an all time low.

The entry of millennials into the workforce hasn’t helped. As per a study done by Deloitte and MIT,

an astounding 85% of that age group say “It is important for me to work for an organisation that is digitally enabled or is a digital leader.” Further, a bigger no. believe that digital technologies can fundamentally transform the way they work.

Problem that happens to be

This has created couple of complications. First, the chasm between the experiences has made employees feel that companies that don’t offer new tech, or tech at par with their wardrobe, are behind the curve. Old school, if you must. Employee retention has become a challenge — millennials want what they want. Second, to create as much parity between the two lives, employees tend to use the same tools, for example, Dropbox for storing documents.

This phenomena has a famed moniker: Shadow IT. IT organisation has been fighting the fight at both the fronts, loosing good engineers to pastures greener and controlling the cottage industries popping all over the estate.

Furthermore, the processes that are implemented thicken the distance between customers and themselves. They end up doing activities that may or may not add value to customers or in case not even to the company. A task we generally indulge in is filling up expenses. It takes us sometimes approximately half a day of effort every month. The forms then go to the line manager through an email, with various hops and clicks, eventually reaching the approval screen for her to ‘approve’ (that she will have to do every employee in her team!). It’s hard to justify this downtime of value add.

Employees are engaged with several functions within the organisation to enable them deliver services for the customer and also manage themselves — thus they work with HR for appraisal, annual leaves, finance for expenses, IT for tech tools etc. Not saying that these functions do not add value, just that the processes to interface have to be easy, quick and designed for digital age, not industrial age. All processes must let employees bring value.

The problem, just like it has been with end customers, is more around user experience. For the right reasons, end customers have been the focal point for all things digital: improving the touch points on the customer journey with digital delights of personalisation, contextualisation and choice. Perhaps, it is time to allocate some of that digital pot for employee experience. After all the end user experience will be optimised to the hilt only if the employees are empowered digitally and feel digital to reflect the culture [for more on how culture eats digital strategy for lunch, read this one]. If true, the new work experience (NWX, as a report by Academy of Management Journal calls it, link) should help retain talent, support support — enable means to the end for delivering amazing customer experience — improve productivity and make operations effective (bottom line).

Sure, there are multiple factors (reference link) that impact workplace experience which include organisation design and management structures; business processes; tools and information services that enable task execution; physical and virtual work environment; culture and communications. Tools are perhaps that matter most for us in IT and other factors through obliquity fall in line.

New work experience, strategies to achieve

There are three strategies, covering approach, vision, service, to help IT organisations enable such benefits.

Use design thinking for all things digital (hoping this is the last time I am going to use Wall Street Journal’s famous tech section): all processes used by employees should be designed, not re-engineered. That is, don’t forget we shape tools, then tools shape us.
Adopt platform thinking: build apps which enable multi-sided conversations. For e.g., messaging as a platform pattern is perhaps the most existing. What if, managers don’t have to leave email app in order to approve expenses request from their teams.
Go beyond acknowledging IT consumerisation: how can devices owned by employees be used without compromising on security — extending to providing tools that users will actually use. Also, imagine how future of gig economy will transpire as an engagement model with employees. Additionally, how users collaborate at work using tools such as a Facebook for work and what do these tools look like. The services have to be democratised.

The end result of these strategies will be an organisation tuned to demand of the digital worker, providing experience that cements improvements in productivity and operational effectiveness — importantly, employee satisfaction that drives happier customers. So care for users, all of them.

Thanks for reading!

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