We talk a lot about working in the enterprise space. When we give presentations, host events, and publish writing, we focus on the work we do with and for our enterprise clients.
And when do, we hope others find value in the learnings we share. But we know we have more zeal for enterprise work than most people. We know we’re outliers.
Our industry tends to get excited about new consumer projects and the next Uber for ____ . There are few out there who, like us, thrill at redesigning hospital records software. We get that.
But we disagree with the idea that enterprise work isn’t exciting. And we’ll happily tell you why.
Why do we like enterprise work so much? How can it possibly offer the excitement required to get us out of bed on a cold, winter morning?
First and foremost: It’s a big playground.
Enterprise software is an enormous category. There are opportunities in almost every single industry to redesign, redefine, disrupt, and improve what already exists or to create something new. And very few people are doing it.
The work we do is seen and used every single day by hundreds of thousands of people across the globe. And while a time-tracking tool may not sound as dynamic as the next big mobile game, there’s actually a lot to get fired up about.
Working in enterprise means we have certain constraints to work within. For some that’s an intimidating prospect, but for us it’s a creative challenge.
Finding a solution that works with pre-existing systems requires serious mental gymnastics. We use a lot more think-outside-the-box problem solving than people realize.
Because of this, working in the enterprise space has also made us better at our craft.
Digging in deep on research to truly understand the needs of enterprise users has improved our work as designers.
We’ve developed a better and more nuanced understanding of our process. We’re better at steering clear of potential challenges that could derail our work. And we’ve become more laser-focused in the way we research, design, and test.
To find a solution that fits budget, time, and pre-existing system constraints while balancing the needs of users and the requirements of stakeholders we have to be both creative and practical. We’ve got to get it right, and get it right fast.
Working at the enterprise level has made our technical teams sharper, too. Security concerns and functionality failsafes for massive, high-use instances are more complicated.
Major corporations can’t afford data leaks; the implications of an issue at that scale are enormous. That means our programmers have to be better at evaluating risks, understanding the intricacies of their environments, and implementing the best solutions available.
Often, the solutions we create need to adapt to fit with pre-existing and legacy systems. This requires a level of technical savvy in implementation that build-it-from scratch development doesn’t need. Marrying cutting-edge tech with legacy systems requires agility and knowledge spanning both then and now. And it demands that we excel at both.
Enterprise work poses a series of challenges, but they are challenges we welcome. They make us better and give us opportunities to stretch ourselves to the limits — and to go beyond what those limits once were.
Because enterprise work touches nearly every industry, it also connects to nearly every person.
The problems we solve in the enterprise have a dramatic impact on the day-to-day lives of people from all walks of life.
Take this example from the New York Times on the far-reaching impact scheduling software can have on one person’s life:
“Like increasing numbers of low-income mothers and fathers, Ms. Navarro is at the center of a new collision that pits sophisticated workplace technology against some fundamental requirements of parenting, with particularly harsh consequences for poor single mothers. Along with virtually every major retail and restaurant chain, Starbucks relies on software that choreographs workers in precise, intricate ballets, using sales patterns and other data to determine which of its 130,000 baristas are needed in its thousands of locations and exactly when. Big-box retailers or mall clothing chains are now capable of bringing in more hands in anticipation of a delivery truck pulling in or the weather changing, and sending workers home when real-time analyses show sales are slowing.”
The story goes on to report on the unpredictability of an ever-changing work schedule, and the trouble it brings to a single mother. The software impacts everything in Ms Navarro’s life, from child-minding to transit scheduling to her family and personal relationships.
In a follow-up piece author Jodi Kantor notes:
“Because the software is ubiquitous, nearly every worker I spoke with had some example of scheduling drama: getting notice of their hours only a day or two in advance, coming in for only a two- or three-hour shift, being dismissed midshift because the computers said sales were slow or the opposite, being pulled in when more hands were needed.”
There are countless similar stories out there — most of them unreported. Kantor describes the software in question as a “piece of software that basically nobody’s ever heard of, really obscure, and yet it was controlling the lives of millions and millions of workers.”
Controlling the lives of millions of workers.
Think about that. Think about the profound impact of solving a scheduling problem that affects millions of people every day.
It may sound grandiose or hubristic, but fixing one piece of software can dramatically change the life of someone like Ms Navarro.
And it makes sense for enterprise corporations to get out in front of the changing digital landscape as well. That scheduling software? It can have a big profit margin impact for the companies that use it.
“Scheduling is now a powerful tool to bolster profits, allowing businesses to cut labor costs with a few keystrokes,” notes Kantor in her article.
If the goals of the organization and the needs of the employee are carefully considered, both parties win.
It’s The Future
IoT. Wearables. Big data. VR and AR. Machine learning.
Just hearing mention of these scintillating tech topics gets hearts-a-pounding these days. And as consumer excitement about them grows, so does the demand for products that use them.
But while the consumer space drives early innovation, it’s the enterprise space that drives long-term use. That is where they’ll gain the most traction and have the highest adoption levels in future.
Our job is to anticipate where these technologies can go. How can we adapt the runaway success of Pokémon GO to make VR tech a difference-maker in the automotive industry? What shifts can be made in the usage of a FitBit-style wearable to make it an effective tool in patient-care in hospitals? How can we take information gathered with route-planning apps like Google Maps or Waze, and transform city planning?
The options are endless. Emerging tech has the potential to dramatically alter the way we do business.
In a recent Slack piece, the difference of working in the enterprise space: “You… need to take a radically different approach to supporting and partnering with customers to help them adjust to new and better ways of working.”
Bringing these innovations to enterprise can’t be left to chance. Implementing these new technologies requires experienced, thoughtful designers and developers who understand the nuanced, multi-stakeholder, high-constraint environments in the enterprise space.
Some of the changes are happening now. Projects we’re working on today will alter the way people operate at work. But they’re just the first steps on a long path, and we’re eagerly anticipating every twist and turn along the way.
We are more certain than ever that the path we’re on is the right one for us.
We know enterprise work isn’t flashy. It doesn’t tend towards sexy and it’s rarely cool. No-one will be fawning over us at the class reunion because of our jet-set lifestyles in the fast-paced world of employee portal software development.
But we’ve said it before, and we’ll say it many, many more times again because it bears repeating: Enterprise work is exciting.
Written by: Leigh Bryant
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