We live in an age of ‘Consumerization of IT’. There is very little doubt that this reality will have to be embraced by organizations in the coming years. Thanks to the ‘Consumerization of IT’, users of enterprise applications expect the same experience that they derive through some of the consumer applications. This experience could mean different expectations to different stakeholders – such as ‘Intuitive UI’, ‘Interactive Dashboards’, ‘Faster Response Times’, ‘Minimum clicks, Maximum Productivity’ etc. However, most individuals now expect highly personalized or ‘contextual’ applications which can perform a certain task keeping in mind the user, the user’s preferences, etc. At the end of it, the expectation is for the data and information to be highly accurate, quick, and relevant to their tasks.
Defining Contextual Applications
It is a standard practice in organizations to automate business processes through their IT applications. These IT based processes are fine-tuned to the organization requirements, while being adapted from the proven worldwide best practices. Enterprise applications are still ‘traditional’ in nature as users have to derive information and then use it, rather than being pushed with relevant and timely information. The figure below shows why enterprise applications are still ‘traditional’ in nature:
My very basic definition of contextual applications would be:
“An application that provides relevant, accurate, and specific data or information to a user to perform a specific task in time and sync them to other related applications, while considering various aspects of the user and ‘Human Factor’ elements.”
User and Human Factor elements would include user’s role, work location, devices being used by the user, products the user has purchased, recent tasks performed, user stress levels, user cognitive abilities etc.
My secondary research on ‘contextual applications’ yielded a concept called as ‘Mindflows’ (term coined by PwC). ‘Mindflow’ is the flexibility of a workflow to adapt to the thoughts of a person to accomplish a certain task.
According to PwC, systems have to be designed based on not just workflows, but should also consider the human cognitive processes as part of the overall business processes. The following table shows how ‘mindful’ applications are better than traditional ones:
Contextual Enterprise Applications on the rise
The need for contextual enterprise applications has risen dramatically in the recent past. Gartner lists ‘Context Rich Systems’ at #5 on the list of technology trends of 2015. It further states that “Businesses will be challenged with creating a dynamic user experience based on an expanding set of contexts to pull data from”.
Some of the present day enterprise applications are in line with Gartner’s trend. IT solutions are modeled more around human behavior now than in the past. For example, Oracle’s marketing automation application also called Oracle Eloqua is modeled around how the marketer thinks. Steven Woods (Group VP of Software Development, Oracle) believes “that’s how today’s software should be designed. How does a human think given a certain task, and how will software mold that thought process”. (Source: PwC )
Source: The Hub
Apple and IBM recently formed a partnership to focus on mobile business applications for various sectors, such as Finance, Law Enforcement, Transportation etc. One of the applications from their partnership was ‘Incident Aware’, which offers law enforcement officials contextual information relating to any untoward incident. This information included maps, video feeds from the crime scene, background information on suspects, and real-time information on back-up arrival times.
Engencia, which is the business travel services arm of Expedia, provided an application to its customers for their mobile devices. Each time a business user clicked on the app, it transmitted all of the relevant information to the travel desk agent. With the travel agent having most of the customer information already handy, there was very little input required by the business user for changing travel plans.
While the above examples certainly show that contextual enterprise applications are on the rise, here are some of my random ideas for contextual applications – though not aware of its being under usage already:
1. A Manager approving leaves for one of the resources in the team could be prompted to approve other pending leave applications for other resources. In addition, an interacting application could open a Project Management Application (with a single sign-in) and allow the user to modify the project plan based on the leaves approved
2. A service application could sense the energy/stress levels of a field service agent and suggest the next task to keep up on the productivity
3. Service desk applications can ‘predict’ a caller’s issue by using information such as name of caller, products/services purchased, location of caller, issues raised from same/nearby location of caller etc.
4. Timesheet applications could automatically record time spent on each task or activity based on several parameters (such as name of the application the user is working on, keywords being typed by the user etc.) and record the time spent on each task for the day
To conclude, one element that will play a huge role in designing the next set of enterprise apps is the ‘Human Factor’ element. Ergonomics, Cognitive Engineering, Psychology, Stress & Fatigue, Culture, and other HF elements will be major parameters in designing future enterprise applications. The ‘Cloud’, ‘Mobile’, ‘Analytics’, and ‘Social’ will be the major enablers of contextual applications. There is also little doubt that context-sensitive applications will play a very important role in the ‘Internet of Things’, ‘Wearable Computing’, ‘Smart Machines’ and other technology innovations.
About CRMIT Solutions
CRMIT Solutions is a leader in transforming businesses with cloud based Customer Experience (CX) solutions on sales, service, marketing & social cloud. CRMIT Solutions is committed to providing customers with the best service in the industry. Everything we do – every order, every delivery, every service, every offering – centers on the satisfaction of our customers, and making them more efficient at what they do.
CRMIT Solutions also extends Marketing Cloud Automation solutions with Oracle Eloqua. “Marketing automation has been a critical component for our customers and Oracle Eloqua is an ideal fit for modern marketers to power revenue performance,” said Vinod Reddy, Founder & CEO, CRMIT Solutions.“They can transform the way you market in the digital age while delivering an integrated and highly personalized customer experience,” added Vinod
CRMIT Solutions is committed to provide customers with the best service in the industry. Everything we do – every order, every delivery, every service, every offering – centers on the satisfaction of our customers, and making them more efficient at what they do.
Senior Business Consultant
CRMIT Solutions Pvt. Ltd., India