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How consumer software experiences are shaping the future of work

by Jim Forrest 12/15/2020


In one regard, our everyday transition from work to home can be like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz going from the black and white Kansas to the technicolor Oz. Finding the information we need at work is labor intensive, it can be frustrating, there is rarely anything inspiring about it. Contrast that to how we access information in our personal lives - all I have to do is look at my phone and it unlocks for me and presents an experience that is hyper-tuned to me!

Facebook knows what I like (probably too much) and pushes information and media to me. I turn on Spotify and choose a channel based on music I like, and I can listen for hours – rarely skipping a song. My phone or watch notifies me of upcoming meetings. At any time, I can tell you how long it will take me to get home. I can access almost any piece of data about me in an instant – photos, finances, you name it. That is just the experience on the phone. We could go on for many paragraphs on how our experiences are changing (mostly for the better) in most aspects of our lives – be it driving, cooking, watching TV, shopping – it is endless.

Then we go back to work and it is back to the grey world of Kansas in the Wizard of Oz. We use search capabilities to find what we need and ask “Why isn’t this like Google?” (BTW – I hear many Google employees say the same thing 😊). I must use all sorts of different applications that all have a different look and feel – most at best feel like they were inspired by Windows 3.1. Even those of us who work for enterprises that produce the great consumer experiences can feel like the Cobbler’s children who have no shoes (and certainly no ruby slippers).

Of course, the main excuse for our monochrome digital work experience is that we have to focus on the customer – the one who pays our bills. The budget for creating robust digital work experiences is going to be smaller in comparison. The investment our enterprises make in managing internal information is always going to be less than is needed. Yet, we can take inspiration from our personal digital experience to produce lower cost enterprise solutions. We might always lag consumer digital, but we can do more to catch up!

Here are three areas where consumer experiences can inspire enterprise solutions: Navigation, Social Sharing, and Personalization.


Navigation: More Discovery, Less File Explorer

How often do you use the search function in Netflix? Usually, we only use it when we know specifically what we are trying to find. Otherwise, content navigates to us. Whether it is browsing recommended movies and shows, scrolling a news feed, or exploring Spotify playlists, these services understand our preferences and constantly flow suggested content to us.

Now contrast that experience to searching for a document at work. Navigating to enterprise content typically falls into two categories: file exploration and search. Neither of those are very engaging experiences – especially if we are trying to find something new. And unlike the consumer experience which revolves around us – our preferences, location, interests, etc. – in the enterprise experience, everything revolves around data and the document – the file name, tag, location, permissions, etc.

What if the Enterprise search and discovery experience was as engaging as Spotify? It would know you, your preferences, location, and your networks' preferences to always give you the most relevant content. It would also be able to group and classify any content to make sure that no matter how complicated your company's lexicon is it would fully understand it’s granularity and always serve you the most relevant information.

Products like Microsoft Cortana and AI assistants for the workplace are starting to scratch at the surface of this experience with daily briefs and document recommendations. But part of the challenge is the complexity of the enterprise workspace with its heterogenous content, diversity of sources, volume of tools, and security restrictions. All this means bringing consumer experiences to the enterprise is not a 1-to-1 translation. For example, Spotify contains the world of music (or just about). No one tool contains the world of knowledge within an enterprise, let alone beyond it. But delivering the core user-centric experience of knowledge navigating to users doesn’t require ownership of content but rather access to it and understanding of users. Enterprise knowledge should behave more like advertising and focus less on organizing data and more on understanding employee interests, projects, and workflows to flow relevant content to them where and when they need it.


Social Sharing: Cultivate a Knowledge-First Culture

LinkedIn has been tirelessly improving their network over the years to help us all understand what our network (and coworkers) care about most in their professional lives. From guaranteeing compelling feed articles to the best job suggestion for you, LinkedIn has captured what a socially business minded individual wants out of a network. Help me understand my community better, what groups I should join to enhance my career and learn from, what influencers could inspire me, and most importantly – how to directly connect with them.

Within the enterprise, however, connecting with experts and colleagues is much more difficult. Even if we know a colleague and know their areas of expertise, getting exposure to their work and knowledge rarely happens if we are not on the same project. This leads to frustration for both knowledge seekers who spend a lot of time trying to connect with the right person and experts who spend a lot of time fielding repeated requests for the same information.

There are many tools that facilitate knowledge sharing and expert identification within the enterprise. These include knowledge bases, tools to crowd-source answers from the community, and team collaboration platforms. However, the experience of finding and sharing information and expertise within the enterprise remains disjointed and manual; content, conversation, and collaboration are dispersed across tools which employees must negotiate. Platforms like LinkedIn work because they deliver a cohesive experience that revolves around users. Content flows based on the contributions and sharing of our network and groups to promote interesting content (and yes, targeted promotional content). Social sharing in the enterprise should similarly be user centric. Content should flow both from the community who are empowered to share and from promoted sources based on authority, expertise, and relevance to our projects and teams.


Personalization: “I” is the Center of Digital

If you’ve noticed a theme, much of the magic of digital engagment distills down to personalization. These experiences put us at the center. This is made possible through an exchange: data for personalization. In our lives outside work, we enter a contract with major tech companies to allow them to monitor and learn from our behavior so they can provide exceptional services to us as consumers. From Spotify’s algorithm to YouTube’s auto play and Instagram's retargeting, our lives are being enriched by the understanding these systems have of us and our experiences keep getting more sophisticated.

If we then look at our workplace and think about what similar experiences could bring, the possibilities are endless and honestly quite inspiring. For example, imagine if AI listened to meetings to provide contextual, curated documents from your organization and the greater knowledge universe instantly. Or imagine if starting a project initiated the auto-creation of a “playlist” of internal resources and external research. And imagine the possibilities if new knowledge instantly connected to everyone who could and should benefit from it. Think of the opportunities as creators and knowledge producers suddenly armed with a distribution channel for contributions that instantly engages people when and where they work.

User-centricity illuminates all these possibilities in the enterprise and is what inspires us at Keeeb to create transformative experiences that reshape how we discover, share, and connect with knowledge. To be clear, this is not about simply replicating consumer solutions in the enterprise; instead, it is about reverse-engineering consumer experiences in professional settings to drive employee engagement, elevate productivity, and accelerate the pace of innovation and growth. It is about unveiling the future of work.

Reflect on your personal digital experience. Which aspect of the way you interact with information, data, or media in your personal life would be the most useful in your professional life?

Join us at a round table discussion on this topic on Wednesday, December 16 from 2:00 to 3:00 EST. Fill out the form here to let us know you are coming.


Contributors: Jim Forrest, Tom Barfield, and Devin Maguire