COVID-19 has changed the way we work forever. We’re all suddenly working from home, reliant on technology and aware of its limitations. Enterprise software is helping us get through the crisis, but it has some way to go to deliver the human experience we expect.
This is a challenging time for many organizations. BEACH sectors (booking, entertainment and live events, airlines, cruises and casinos, and hotels and resorts) are among the worst hit, with market capitalization falling sharply. Public sector organizations are on the front line, valiantly rising to the challenge of looking after the communities they serve. Charities are dealing with a surge in demand, and with government support taking weeks to arrive, many are launching urgent COVID-19 appeals.
For other industries, like professional services, the transition has been more straightforward because they already had a homeworking infrastructure in place. Many education institutions, while now physically closed, continue to offer student services online.
All organizations are bringing a heightened sense of humanity to what they do. They’re reaching out to their customers, clients or citizens to show they care and waiving their regular terms and conditions in exemplary acts of proactive customer service. In its recent paper, the Institute for Public Relations said that genuine care for employees’ safety, concerns and well-being can help reduce employee anxiety and create a deeper bond with them.
A Lasting Change To The Way We Work
We’re living through the most significant shift in the way we work since the dawn of the internet. Everyone who can is now working at home, their inboxes awash with offers of training, products and services related to homeworking.
In my own organization, which provides enterprise software, we’ve seen an upturn in employee engagement overall, and in my department, productivity increased 12% in the first few weeks of homeworking. I think this crisis will have a lasting effect on the way enterprise software development happens in the future. Teams might still come together in the office a couple of days a week, but work from home the rest of the time.
Pivoting With Enterprise Software
Enterprise software is helping businesses pivot to new ways of working. COOs can continue operations using cloud ERP systems accessed from any device. CFOs can use financial management software to scenario-model the effects on their organizations both during and after this outbreak. And CHROs can support and manage people remotely using employee engagement apps.
Much enterprise software is now available as a cloud-based software as a service (SaaS), which is accessible anywhere. The widespread use of open application programming interfaces (APIs) now makes integration with other software easy. Automation, much of it now powered by artificial intelligence (AI), performs an increasing number of routine operations automatically. Natural language digital assistants and no-code or low-code interfaces make it easy to interact with the software. Role-specific functions packaged into purpose-built, mobile-friendly apps make enterprise software more natural to use on the move.
Business Software Vendors Must Raise Their Game
Enforced homeworking is highlighting the need to improve user experience, and it’s never been more important to prioritize the human experience. We must make work easier for people, freeing time, increasing engagement and raising productivity.
Workers today are getting used to a new style of software experience. They’re spending more time in environments like Teams or Slack, which is creating an expectation that enterprise software should look and feel the same. Enterprise software developers need to step up to this new expectation of consumer-style interfaces and mobile apps.
The enterprise software industry also needs to fully embrace subscription and usage-based commercial model. Even the most up-to-date vendors only offer a strange hybrid of flat fees and usage charges that grates against customer expectations. Customers expect that once they’ve signed up, they should get unlimited use, but it’s often capped.
There has never been a time when it was more important for IT systems to be easy to change. Having the ability to adapt quickly to changing circumstances has always mattered, but the current crisis has taken this to a new level. The last thing anyone needs in an environment like this is to have to rely on disruptive and expensive coding if they want to make simple changes to their enterprise systems.
How To Start Prioritizing The ‘People Experience’
There are many things businesses need to do to make their environments more people-centric, but following these three simple principles can help you get started:
1. Help your people focus on their purpose. People come to work for a reason — automate the trivial stuff so they can focus on what matters to them.
2. Make work meaningful. Employee engagement is the prime driver of productivity, so streamline processes to help people get closer to the work they find fulfilling.
3. Use technology designed around people. People-centric sectors (like education or nonprofit) shouldn’t shoehorn their operations into software designed for industrial manufacturing. Ask your people how they want to work, and build the software around them.
Nothing Will Ever Be The Same
COVID-19 will go down in history as an economic, cultural and technological inflection point. Organizations will have to economize, scale down and become more virtualized. The gig economy will boom as organizations outsource more to freelancers and contractors. It is unlikely consumers will visit the mall as much as they did, and businesspeople will be less inclined to take the red-eye when they have seen how productive online meetings can be. Homeworking will remain the norm for many.
As this new normal takes shape, we will all need our IT systems to be more flexible, accessible, intelligent and affordable than ever. The enterprise software industry may not be on the front line today, but it has a vitally important role to play in enabling human endeavor both during and after the pandemic.