Your employees shouldn’t be your users

by Brian Katz on July 31, 2014 · 0 comments

Whenever people talk about creating apps the conversation turns to delighting the customer. Companies build apps that will delight people. They will have a great user interface (UI) and an even better user experience (UX). They will enable people to do what they want/need to do. We learn from day one when you walk into a company it’s all about pleasing the customer. That’s why we build consumer apps the way that we do. Then when we have time, we build apps for our employees. You know, the ones we call users. We give them mobile devices or expect them to use their own. We take apps that exist on the desktop and port them to mobile devices. If we have time we may even try and make the apps look good. Yet businesses have no idea why their employees aren’t using those apps.

Customer SatisfactionIt’s really very simple. We think of our employees as an afterthought. We want to “do the things we’ve always done.” (I can’t count the number of times I have heard that excuse used!) We spend lots of time building backends that we hardcode (why use a FQDN etc. when our servers would never change?) into monolithic applications for the PC. The business would come up with a set of requirements, the scope would creep, and before you knew it, you had a crapplication that would never disappear. It guaranteed your developers a job because no one else could figure out how it was put together in the first place.

The problem is, your employees don’t want to use these crapplications on their mobile devices. They‘ve been conditioned by Apple and Google that apps should be simple and easy to use. They use consumer apps on their own mobile devices all the time. They don’t understand why work apps have to suck.

Quite simply, it’s time for companies to stop thinking of their workers as just employees and to start thinking of them as customers. They’re going to use apps to consume information and get stuff done, just like your external customers. Why treat them differently. The goal of any company is to enable their employees to get work done when and where they need to. The employees are going to take data, turn it into information and then knowledge. They then act on that knowledge. It may be as simple as taking a customer’s order in a retail store to the more complicated making a change on an assembly line. There’s no reason we have to make it so difficult with a crapplication.

Yet companies don’t like to think of their employees as customers. They forget that their brand starts with their employees. It’s hard to get other people to love your products if your own people don’t. When you treat your employees like customers, they communicate that brand love out. That’s what enablement is all about. Giving people the tools they need and getting out of their way so they can do a great job. When they love their job and their brand, everyone will know it.

This means that you have to follow the FUN principle. Focus on your users’ needs. Build apps that are designed for the devices that they have. Give them the ability to use their device and the apps to become the tools they need to get their job done. When done correctly, it’s no longer about the app or the device; it just becomes an experience for them.

This means throwing away the way you used to do things. You build your apps to meet your customers’ needs. You take their feedback and roll out updates. It’s no longer building an application and then walking away to the next project. An app never dies until you are ready to retire it. You use APIs to create standard connections to your backends to make sure that it’s easy to upgrade apps in the future and to extend functionality when you need it. The time to design and build an app is measured in weeks to a few months, not months to a few years. OS upgrades are easy to handle because you didn’t disband the app team, you knew you had to iterate. You no longer have external and internal facing app developers. You just have developers.

When the employee becomes your customer and you focus on enablement, you’ve truly taken your company mobile.

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