It almost goes without saying, but it often bears repeating; technology is all about the end user. Any software that is developed should always be done so with their potential concerns and issues at the forefront of developers’ minds. For consumers, plenty of apps abound that are incredibly usable and fulfil desires that, even a decade ago, were unheard of. Uber, an app for transportation, is the classic example of this.
It isn’t always so easy in a business environment though. Any IT department in the world will tell you that it isn’t often when user desires and IT requirements are fully in sync with each other. With ‘digital transformation’ becoming a more prominent agenda point in board meetings, it’s becoming more important for central IT departments to have to balance cost and security, with the desires of an increasingly tech-hungry user base.
Juggling the two is going to be a big challenge over the coming years. There is no one singular approach that will make for a simple solution, but there are three strategic elements that companies should focus on to help make the journey easier: corporate culture, commercials and operational demands.
Assessing company culture
Arguably the biggest factor in balancing end user demands with IT requirements is company culture. Technology means different things to both camps. For IT, the biggest concerns when implementing new technology are almost certain to be security, cost and resource management. Employees however, are more concerned with functionality, connectivity and access via whatever device they choose to use.
One of the two groups often wins out, leaving the other dissatisfied. Whatever the case, it means unhappy employees, which has an inevitable impact on productivity and ultimately, the bottom line. To maintain the equilibrium, company culture should be direct how IT decision making is made.
For example, if, historically, IT sets the parameters of how the company should interact with devices and data, then it is IT’s considerations which should be put ahead of employees.
However, give IT the same kind of control if the technology culture has traditionally been employee driven, then prepare for upset. Many staff will expect their company to trust them to use data and devices responsibly. If pressured to use too much software that IT deems necessary, it could prevent them from working to their full potential.
The commercial impact of roaming
Unrestricted roaming is an often overlooked money sink, and a good example of where user requirements, IT requirements and cost-saving requirements can align.
For the many enterprises who have an internationally travelling staff, unrestricted roaming can lead to costs that can range in the thousands of pounds for a single business trip.
Take a construction company as an example. Mobile senior staff will need a constant and consistent connection when surveying a site, in their hotel room and even when in transit. Travellers in large enterprises simply need such tools to work wherever they are based.
Restricted roaming across all internationally used devices seems the obvious solution, but the downside is that it can leave important senior staff out of the loop.
A potential resolution comes in taking a partial data restriction or a BYOD solution. This plays back into the culture piece. It results in tools that are defined and enabled by the IT team, controlled by the users, but nevertheless encourages responsibility and cost awareness from both parties.
Automation equals efficiency and engagement
Increasing automation in IT means an increase in analytics. By ridding employees of the time-consuming and menial tasks from their workload, it frees up their time to spend on the parts of their job that create real value and ROI for the business.
Call centres represent a good example of where automation is having a notable effect. Whereas CRM systems once required manual entry of the detail of recorded calls, automation platforms can now handle this the second the phone is put down. Call analytics can start so much faster.
Employees will soon expect this kind of operational capability in more of their work day processes. Many may not exist for another several years, but today, CRM systems are an excellent place to start showing how IT can meet expectations while also increasing operational efficiency.
Getting all three of these strategic elements right will be a lengthy process for most enterprises, but doing so will yield many benefits, foremost of which; a satisfied and efficient IT department, as well as a technologically satisfied employee base.
David Macfarlane joined Gamma in 2012 and now heads up Gamma Network Solutions, the enterprise solutions division.