The software-defined workplace: What will work look like in 2017?

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/andresr)

In 2016, consumer-facing tools and apps continued to converge with workplace software. Slack announced an integration with Salesforce and consumer brands like Skype and Facebook made progress with their respective enterprise-focused offerings. Today, employee workplace software is slowly looking more like consumer and social apps, which isn’t surprising since employees have become accustomed to a simple, personalized experience when using apps outside of the office. 

A recent Forrester Research report commissioned by Sapho showed that 30 percent of employees want personalized notifications of tasks that need to be completed and another 28 percent of employees believe a personalized feed of individual actions and updates would improve how they leverage, access, and take action on information. Sounds like Facebook, right? But the similarities don’t end there. Employees are consumers too, and as consumers, we also want actionable insights delivered to the platform of our choice (which can change hourly), with an easy-to-use interface (such as a feed), and personalized notifications.

As we wrap up 2016, here are some trends that I expect will make their way into the enterprise in 2017.

Consumer-driven experiences: simple, personalised, and proactive

We’ve seen Slack gain quick adoption and engagement in the workplace with more than three million daily active users. I expect Skype for Business and Facebook Workplace will see similar success. Why you ask? Because Slack (like Skype and Facebook) is built with consumers in mind – it’s easy to use, pushes information to users through notifications and updates, and offers simple actions users can take to get something done. It also saves the back-and-forth headache of email chains – another thing employees desire.

Workers want easy-to-use enterprise solutions that offer a personalized experience. Rather than going and digging for information or data, employees – trained by social media tools – prefer personalized updates surfaced to them, just like Facebook reminds them to RSVP for their friend’s birthday party. Proactive push notifications and a work feed are the key to ensuring important information is surfaced, tasks are completed on time, and ultimately, employees are getting their work done. Google even made this a common workplace practice by integrating push notifications into Chrome earlier this year.

I expect that workplace solutions will increase the pace in which they add consumer functionality by taking a simple, personalized, and notification-driven approach so tasks can get done easily and employees are armed with the most relevant information to make the best business decisions.

Omnichannel communication

We saw Apple respond to consumers’ desire to be able to complete a task or share an update in the app they’re already in with its recent iOS 10 updates to iMessages. With options like in-app payments and the ability to share a flight itinerary or dinner reservations, users don’t have to leave the app they’re in to complete a task or send an update, and we’ll see that making its way into the work environment.

Slack and Salesforce’s recent partnership further proves that the future of work is going micro – with simple tasks that can be completed in a single click – and employees want information from various applications delivered in the channel they’re already using, whether that be a communications channel, a browser, or a mobile device. I expect more workplace communication tools to adopt this approach, to ensure smooth communication and collaboration among teams.

System modernisation in the form of software

Companies have spent millions of dollars on their existing systems and they are further locked into multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts and won’t be able to rip-and-replace those offerings anytime soon. Given this, progressive organizations are thinking about modernizing workflows on top of the systems they are already using.

In a recent report titled The New Discipline Of Digital Business Automation,” Forrester analysts say that, now more than ever, C-level executives are demanding system modernization projects move faster – they should leave legacy systems in place and focus on speeding up workflows and improving user interfaces. I believe they are right – emerging software can tie into legacy systems to help meet the C-level’s expectations. Once the connections are made, simple workflows can be built to speed up handoffs and approvals, like the approval process for POs, vacation requests, or expense reports.

In a recent Gartner presentation titled “Rethinking Enterprise Application Software,” Gartner gave valuable advice to attendees that couldn’t replace their existing on-premises systems with SaaS solutions: Leverage tools that can sit on top of their legacy systems to improve workflows, modernize the systems, and make the bloated systems more usable.

In 2017, we’ll continue to see these consumer-oriented trends come into the workplace and everyone from the C-suite to IT teams to lines of businesses need to be prepared to offer modern apps with simple workflows to their teams. Now that’s a New Year’s Resolution!

What do you think work will look like in 2017 and beyond? Let us know in the comments.

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