Enterprise mobility, stop treating the symptoms

by Brian Katz on March 6, 2015 · 2 comments

I had the distinct pleasure of getting together with one of my best college buddies a few months ago. We hadn’t seen each other in quite a few years, both of our faults, and yet it took less than a minute to slip into old habits and patterns. It was actually a business meeting we were at; we just didn’t realize that we were getting together. He actually runs a healthcare company that spends its time focusing on the patient and looking at the total person. They actually allow the patient to understand their own issues and chart their progress/outcome. 

symptomsThis is very different from what we do in the enterprise today. We spend time focused on the business requirements, and most of the time we haven’t charted the path for the employee to get there. We tend to look at each business requirements as a symptom and we work on treating that symptom. We forget that we are trying to create a system where all these business requirements fit together and move the business forward. Each requirement is seen as a goal and you develop a solution to meet that goal without understanding what effect that has on the rest of the strategy. One has to remember that a list of goals, in and of themselves, isn’t a strategy, rather they are outcomes of a well-achieved strategy.

A great example that my buddy brought up was insomnia. Insomnia is a huge issue for many people with serious diseases. Most doctors look at the symptom of insomnia and want to treat the sleeping disorder itself. They may prescribe a sleeping pill or a change in regimen but most don’t get to the root of what is causing the sleepless nights, and discontinuing the medication brings the issue back. Yet, of the many factors that cause insomnia, it strongly correlates with a few underlying conditions such as depression (among others). If the doctor treats the depression versus the insomnia they are improving the whole patient, not just allowing a person to get a nights sleep.

Enterprises do the same thing. They look at their work force and see employees who are not engaged or as productive as they would like them to be. They look to treat the symptom. It’s pretty easy for most of them. They read all about how mobility makes people more productive so they buy their work forces smartphones and tablets. Then they’re shocked when it doesn’t solve their issue, people are still disengaged and not as productive but now they have a shiny new toy to play with while they’re at it.

Enterprises need to start looking at their employees as their customers too. You spend time and money on engaging with your customers, why don’t you do that with your employees? Those companies that are successful have learnt to focus on all their customers. They take the FUN principle (focus on the users’ needs) to heart. They engage with their employees on multiple channels (how many times can you read the same email?) and listen to what’s being said.

They look for tools that enable their customers to get their job done. It’s not about just giving them a device and expecting productivity to increase. It’s looking at what the strategies are and how they can enable people to be more agile and flexible. When you understand how a person works and what they’re trying to achieve you can give them tools that help them get there. You need to remember that a device alone is not a tool but it’s the combination of the device and an app that turns it into a tool.

This means that you have to do more than just provide the simple email, calendar, and contacts options and build apps that improve business processes. Remember, you’re not trying to treat the symptom, so taking a desktop app and making it available through VDI on a mobile device doesn’t make the experience better. You have to create apps that focus on the underlying need and provide a user experience that just begs for people to interact with it. You have to build on those user experiences by creating a whole ecosystem of tools that users can take advantage of. As the ecosystem rises around them, they aren’t talking about the device that they have or the cubicle that they are in, but rather the job that they need to do and the experiences that they are having. That’s when a job becomes more than a place where you go but a thing that you do.

When you allow people to chart their own course and understand their path, you aren’t a business focused on lack of engagement or productivity but rather a ship gliding through the water on course laid out by the business strategy and arriving at the needed destinations earlier and in front of your competitors.

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