Putting people back into the heart of digital tech

In the age of the digital ego, even enterprise apps need to start serving the user.

Come September, we’re putting the digital ego – people – back at the heart of the tech conversation. And that’s not just for the benefit of the user – it;’s for the benefits of the business that serve them.

Let me explain. Here’s one of the arguments: putting people back into the heart of your product design is good for business.

And there’s a great example of that sitting out there: corporate IT.

Innovation in customer, stagnation in enterprise

Much of the tech innovation has been defined by consumer apps not by the business end of the scale. And why is that? Well, because to much enterprise software is not designed for the users, it’s designed to hit the targets of the IT manager – who may never have to use the tech in question. The user experience of the product was, at best, a secondary concern.

The Harvard Business Review has just published the third in a series of reports into BYOD (bring your own device), BYOPC (bring your own computer) and BYOA (bring your own application, including using the public cloud). One of the key findings is that higher-performing companies have a greater use of personal devices and software in their work:

Bring your won tec

This makes immediate sense when you think about it. Let a good craftsperson choose her own tools, and she’ll do better work. Every second that an employee spends wrestling with ill-suited or ill-chosen tech is a second that they’re not spending on client work – and earning revenue.

The tension between IT as a cost-control department and one as a business facilitation one is about as old as computers in business are. But this report is but one part of a growing body of evidence that dictating to people which tools they can use is not a good path to productivity – especially when that tech has been designed to provide command and control for IT, not serve the needs of the user.

Thankfully, this is changing.

People in corporate tech

People are returning to the heart of enterprise tech.

We’re seeing great steps forwards in enterprise-tech comping from companies with a consumer attitude. Slack is a great example of this, as are some of the cloud file storage services like Dropbox and, specifically, Box. These are explicitly enterprise-level tools, but built with an ethos that remembers the user, not just the IT purchaser.

And on the tech front, the rise of Apple in the mobile world, has brought a company that is famously dismissive of customising its products for the needs of enterprise into the forefront of business tech. However, even that is changing somewhat, with Apple actively seeking partnerships to help develop its enterprise offers – first with IBM and now SAP.

And the loop closes. The enterprise players are back in the game, but in a way that’s much more centred on the user. It’s all good business – if you can serve the digital ego.