Internal software can make or break enterprises, so why do so few invest in the tools that their teams need to deliver strategic value?
Today, consumers interact with companies in the digital space just as much — if not more — than the physical one. This means that the digital user experience plays a critical role in how people perceive brands, purchase products, and think of themselves as customers. Accordingly, enterprises are racing to deliver a streamlined, intuitive UX/UI to customers in order to earn (and keep) their business.
In this mad dash towards improving the external user experience, however, a critical type of end-user is often forgotten: employees. Providing your employees with quality software that makes their jobs easier and empowers them to perform their best is a worthwhile investment for any enterprise. More often than not, though, internal software is an afterthought to the greater goal of external software development.
While digital customer-facing applications are a top priority for today’s businesses, letting internal software fall to the wayside in the process is a mistake. Having inadequate internal software poses a major problem for enterprises looking to recruit and retain top talent. Unusable or unintuitive software doesn’t just make it difficult for employees to get work done — it can negatively affect their overall satisfaction, the likelihood that they’ll stay at your company, and their ability to deliver a positive experience to customers. All of this hurts enterprises’ bottom line in the short and long term.
Why Enterprise Software Stinks
Across the board, enterprise software lags behind external software. While enterprises in a wide range of industries are staking their future on digital transformations that embed customers in the fabric of their business, the same attention isn’t being paid to the employees who actually make that business possible.
For starters, businesses often overlook the employee user experience because it’s not customer-facing. When it comes to internal software, project managers and IT teams often believe that finished products don’t need to be as streamlined as external applications because employees will have to make it work no matter what they’re given. Because employees aren’t customers in the traditional sense, the same attention — and level of investment — often doesn’t make it into the design of enterprise software.
With that said, internal teams do not set out to make bad software. IT teams tasked with improving upon sprawling legacy enterprise systems may have to contend with design challenges they’re not up against externally. Project managers may only have a few hours of interaction with business professionals to learn about their needs — not nearly enough to fully understand what they’re looking for. And perhaps most importantly, enterprise leadership may not be making the same resources available to IT experts working on internal software as those working on external products. To retain happy employees and ultimately deliver better products to their customers, enterprise CIOs need to prioritize internal software moving forward.
A Changing Workforce
The concerns about internal software and employee satisfaction are especially pressing given the rising number of digital natives in the workforce. With millennials projected to make up 50% of the U.S. workforce in the next two years and 75% in the next ten, enterprise employees have higher expectations for effective software than ever before. For enterprise leaders, it’s becoming increasingly important to invest in internal software that can meet the needs of their employees.
With the rise of digital-native millennial employees, consumer expectations and employee expectations are one and the same. This generation of workers expects the software they use to do their work to be just as seamless and effective as the applications they use in their everyday life. As the workforce becomes majority-millennial — and with Gen Z employees not far behind — it’s crucial that enterprise leaders understand what this modern workforce needs to thrive.
Increasingly, digital-native employees are looking for enterprise software that prioritizes ease of use, collaboration, and mobility. They want workplace tools that allow them to get tasks done wherever they are and whenever they’re accessing them. Compared with legacy systems that are tied to office workstations and call for hours of frustrating training, new enterprise software needs to meet millennial and Gen Z employees where they are and provide them with a user experience that puts a premium on getting work done in a collaborative manner.
A New Era For Enterprise Software
Accordingly, enterprise leaders, project managers, and IT teams need to reassess their approach to internal software. In addition to investing greater resources in employee tools, it’s going to be essential that stakeholders pay greater attention to internal workflows, the needs of various business teams, and the expectations of digital-native workers.
For example, project managers and software developers should make it a goal to better understand how employees currently use enterprise applications. While legacy systems may be generally unpopular, there may be certain features that workers enjoy that would make for an easier transition to new software. Internal software teams should also work closely with the employees who will actually use their applications. This can take the form of short consultative meetings in order to gain a stronger understanding of how employees work and what they specifically need.
By taking these steps, it’s possible to build internal software that both works for the organization and that satisfies the needs, expectations, and work habits of employees. Ultimately, this issue is not just about recruiting and retention. While it’s critical to create a work environment that supports employees and encourages them to stay, it’s equally important to provide them with the tools they need to perform to their fullest potential — and pass the benefits of this increased productivity on to your customers.