With growing tech complexity, businesses can’t lose sight of end users

A digital face in profile against a digital background.
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Ryzhi)

It seems not a week goes by without headlines about technology becoming more intelligent. In the world of consumer technology, we’ve seen everything from lightbulbs to refrigerators becoming ‘smart’. Many of us find this an exciting time, but not everybody is on board – and that is fine, because the consumer tech revolution is optional.

In the world of work, however, this is simply not the case. The suite of apps that many businesses use for core functions, from HR to video calling, are not really optional. Of course, from a business’ point of view, by replacing paper-based processes or legacy technologies, they’re empowering employees to carry out tasks in a smarter way than before. Yet the reality is often very different to this well-meaning assumption: adding another app to the ever-growing pile does not always have the positive effect businesses might expect.

We’ve lost sight of the end user

The sheer abundance of workplace software is instead the source of much frustration, with the average large enterprise’s tech stack containing a mammoth 187 apps. In the race to ‘bigger, faster, better, stronger’ workplace technology, businesses have lost sight of the end user and how they use technology on a day-to-day basis.

It’s easy to see how they might make this mistake and assume that adding layer upon layer of products will improve things. After all, most technologies are created to make human beings’ lives better, easier, safer, or richer – and vendors shout the supposed benefits of their solutions from the rooftops. In many cases, however, the complicated mesh of different applications and services makes it impossible for workers to reap the rewards because they are bogged down in the digital friction of constantly switching between them.

This friction can build up to software paralysis, a state in which the overcomplexities of switching between apps with changing interfaces causes employees to be overwhelmed and ultimately weighs down productivity and the employee experience. Businesses need to turn this situation on its head to cut through the noise and focus on both reducing digital friction and improving the user experience.

Simon Blunn

Simon Blunn is Senior Vice President & General Manager for EMEA & APAC at WalkMe,

Thinking small, medium and big

First and foremost, businesses should drill down to focus on simplifying the user experience at an individual level. It can be very confusing for people to work across different applications, all with different layouts and menus – businesses must take proactive steps to simplify the digital employee experience. Digital Adoption Platforms (DAPs) can provide in-the-moment customized guidance and automation across applications, acting like a concierge to enable employees to get their jobs done with the technology tools available to them without having to go through training sessions.

Next, businesses should zoom out and look at the bigger picture. How are employees working – what apps are they using, and are there any that are not being used as much as you thought they would be? Here, DAPs and process mining solutions can help identify and resolve workflow and process inefficiencies – fixing seemingly small inefficiencies which can actually add up to much bigger problems that drag employees down, and ultimately hamper productivity. The power of data intelligence can enable businesses to audit processes and ensure everything is running as smoothly as possible.

The crucial final step is to take a critical lens to the enterprise tech stack. Is everything contributing to the bottom line, or boosting either the employee or customer experience? Are there any redundancies among the many software investments that have been made, and how can these be eliminated? DAPs can help by measuring and improving the level of technology adoption, automating repetitive processes, and streamlining workflows, enabling businesses to assess what they’ve already invested in, and identify opportunities to extract maximum value from them. The time has come to not just assume, but really prove the ROI of enterprise technology investments.

User experience is no passing phase

No matter what drove businesses to initially invest in workplace technologies, it’s essential to take a step back to ensure that everything works for employees. With the right apps in place and a focus on the employee experience, enterprises can cut the amount of complex tech in the workplace, and secure maximum benefit from their investments. In an economy in which many find themselves trying to get by with less, in other words, be more productive with less resources, there has never been a better time to reduce digital fiction to maximize both productivity and value from existing technology investments.

This is easier said than done, of course, with hundreds if not thousands of applications in play in most businesses. But by focusing on measuring adoption across all apps and really interrogating the tech stack as a whole, businesses will be able to renew their focus on the end user. This will help employees cut through the noise and confusion of working across multiple applications, removing confusion and barriers from their path to set them up to become more productive than ever.

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Simon Blunn is Senior Vice President & General Manager EMEA & APAC at WalkMe, where he develops key partner relationships in these regions and grows the organization across multiple functions.