The convergence of consumer and professional technology has been going on for some time. Indeed, the influx of personal computers into homes back in the 1990s democratized a technology that previously had been limited to highly trained technicians.
These days, of course, a single cell phone has more computing power than all but the most powerful systems of bygone eras, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the same technologies and applications that inhabit our personal lives should infiltrate our workdays as well.
In fact, consumer technology outperforms today’s enterprise systems in a number of key ways, says Entrepreneur’s Sheila Eugenio. For one thing, the user interfaces for many personal applications are far more intuitive than what we find at work. This is partly due to the underlying assumption that consumers are less digital-savvy than professionals, but it overlooks the fact that in most cases they are one and the same. A corporate marketer, after all, has no greater knowledge of software code or OS-level functionality than your average teenager (and in many cases, quite a bit less), so it makes just as much sense to streamline operations for those who produce and market your products as for those who buy them. As well, consumer technology is embracing advancements like mobility, customization and even artificial intelligence much faster than enterprise systems.
Federal News Radio’s Tom Temin made a quick scan of all the new toys at CES earlier this month and was struck by all the ways cutting-edge technologies are being applied to how we play rather than how we work. Whether it is virtual reality, machine intelligence, autonomous functions or the advanced processing that supports these developments, they are apt to make their way into gaming, recreation and leisure activities long before they make any meaningful contributions to productivity or development. The upside of this, of course, is that it becomes easier to see how the enterprise will change in the next few years simply by looking at what our kids are into on their gaming platforms and smartphones.
The latest example of this trend is the voice UI, says Diginomica’s Kurt Marko. Tools like Amazon Alexa, Google Home and Apple Siri are becoming much more conversational and are able to adapt and respond to a wider range of requests and commands than earlier iterations. While it may be convenient to be able to dim the lights or start the dishwasher simply by speaking out loud, this technology’s potential to reinvent the enterprise should not be underestimated. A world in which virtually anyone can provision resources or run a data query on demand opens up entirely new opportunities in terms of product development, market analysis and decision-making.
But the enterprise should not dawdle when it comes to implementing these technologies in the workplace. As tech blogger David Bolton notes, the digital economy has raised the expectations of what can be accomplished in terms of personal experience, and subsequent generations of knowledge workers will be increasingly intolerant of confusing and convoluted systems in their professional pursuits. A recent survey by Accenture reveals that a growing number of consumers expect their technology to “automagically” adapt to their needs and desires to deliver hyper-personalized experiences no matter what they are doing or what platform they are using.
On one level, it should come as no surprise that the latest technologies should be devoted to augmenting revenue streams by appealing to consumers rather than enhancing less quantifiable functions like productivity and data-crunching. But the fact remains that in an interconnected world, the consumer-facing side of the enterprise will only prove as functional as internal processes allow.
While it may be tempting to use the cutting-edge for fun and games, we should not overlook its ability to enhance the work that needs to be done as well.
Arthur Cole writes about infrastructure for IT Business Edge. Cole has been covering the high-tech media and computing industries for more than 20 years, having served as editor of TV Technology, Video Technology News, Internet News and Multimedia Weekly. His contributions have appeared in Communications Today and Enterprise Networking Planet and as web content for numerous high-tech clients like TwinStrata and Carpathia. Follow Art on Twitter @acole602.