The Forces Behind, and Against, Consumerization of the Enterprise - Page 2

Geoff Cubitt

Common Barriers to Consumerization

Although the enterprise may be moving toward consumerization, certain factors act as inhibitors as companies attempt to evolve. Chief among them are the commoditization of IT and off-shoring, as well as insufficient processes and structures.

In general, the structure of corporate IT organizations is not highly conducive to the idea of being user-centric and consumer-oriented.  Many organizations have embraced the concept that IT is a commodity, and therefore, the focus should be on lowest-cost, off-shore bodies. Often, procurement buys IT services as if they were buying toilet paper, but the problem is not all IT resources are the same.  The commoditization mindset is exacerbated when organizations go offshore: since labor costs are low and quality is questionable, organizations compensate by hiring more workers-who require additional management-to tackle the job. 

Offshore development at low cost has a role, but not in building the user experience that re-invigorates the relationship between business service providers and customers. Factors like high turnover with offshore development firms, language barriers and inherent difficulties of working with people overseas combine to create a model beset by challenges when creating a compelling user experience is at stake.

Further, many enterprises don't have processes or structure built around a user-centric IT delivery approach. A basic understanding of the user experience and its delivery tends to be the furthest most enterprises have gone, and many have no capability at all. This new and evolving area has really grown up significantly in the Web era, but even a solid Web 1.0 experience design process is not quite adequate anymore.

As rich Internet applications (RIA) technologies have matured and evolved, there has been a powerful give and take between the technologist and the design team. The technologies don't just bound the design by what is technically feasible, but also push the design further by introducing capabilities that the design team never dreamed possible. 

Importance of Conceptual Design

Conceptual designs have become increasingly important in communicating an enterprise application project's direction early in its life cycle. These designs can help to crystallize business intent, provide something tangible to test with users, and be utilized to secure buy-in and project funding. 

Many organizations lack an understanding of the new design and development processes necessary to producing rich and engaging experiences. They also lack the specialized skill sets and resources to deliver on these methodologies.  Whole new roles that did not previously exist have emerged and are now keys to project success, as certain resources are key to bridging the gap between a user experience design and the object-oriented development team that makes an enterprise application come to life.

The Future of the Enterprise

The good news is that it's still early and many enterprises are well behind the expectation curve. That means that more proactive enterprises have the opportunity to change the game and leverage the user experience as a strategic differentiator. Over the next couple years, it will become necessary to raise the level of user experience to defend the loss of customers to those who are already recognizing the importance of their primary customer interface channel.

As is usually the case, customers will speak up about what they want, and to address their needs, enterprises must reassess their approach to IT projects and consider adjustments to how they are organized to deliver IT solutions. Collaboration between marketing, lines of business and IT as well as a renewed focus on the customer experience will be integral to meeting the challenge.

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