In the past couple of decades we have seen a huge transformation in the way we all experience and consume technology. The rise of social media, with the likes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram leading the way, has reshaped the way we interact with technology. The user experience has been transformed and the increasing sophistication of mobile technology has enabled us to carry that experience with us almost anywhere in the world. This is exactly the opposite of legacy enterprise applications. Today, technology and consumption of information is everywhere, in the palms of our hands.

It would therefore be naive to assume that this pervasive change has not affected the way we think about work applications. Typical interfaces, in the past, were built on simplistic designs, with minimal focus on user interfaces and more emphasis on condensing functionality within the enterprise application environment, leading to complex steps for even the simplest of tasks. There was minimal integration with other applications, users had to navigate complex steps, and the user experience was unsatisfactory.

In the past few years, however, we have seen strong demand from customers seeking to replicate the consumer experience of their employees, either through social media or as mobile application users in their everyday life. Interfaces are transforming to encompass functionality, but also to make the transition between processes more seamless, collaboration more fluid, and the user experience more rewarding.

In addition, many software vendors are making their applications fully accessible via tablets and smartphones, offering additional functionality to users. Digital assistants are also migrating from the consumer domain to the work environment, from chatbots and digital interfaces prompting specific actions, to voice-operated and integrated companions that can book holidays, order a new piece of equipment, or approve a pending work case.

This is also a vivid representation of the ways in which work itself has been steadily transformed. We have moved from a collection of solitary actors working on specific tasks independently and then bringing together the fruits of their labor, to more fluid team-based organizations with multiple iterations, edits, and refinements in the course of a single project. With the Future of Work taking the enterprise applications world by storm, new tools are emerging, like for example, real-time collaboration functionality and great integration.

IDC surveys, for example, show that consumer-grade self-service options for employees and managers are seen to be very important for one in three HR decision makers when selecting a new HR solution, while 56% see social and collaborative features as very important in any new HR deployment (IDC’s EMEA HCM Survey, 2018). Conversely, in the travel and expense space, which tends to touch almost all employees, data from the most recent SaaS Path Survey of over 2,000 respondents shows that “ease of use” is the most important vendor selection criterion among T&E software users.

Software vendors looking for ways to increase retention and open up new market share opportunities cannot go wrong by putting a premium on ease of use, better self-service, and consumer-grade collaboration and social network functionality — all now considered a “must have” in enterprise applications.

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