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Consumerize it

Mobile experiences have eaten the consumer world. Next stop: the workplace

By Richard McGill Murphy

The mobile phone is perhaps the most successful product in the history of commerce. The first cellular phone came on the market in 1973. Today some two thirds (66.65%) of the global population owns one, according to stats collected by the website bankmycell.com. There are about nine billion mobile connections in the world, which works out to one billion more connections than people living on our planet.

In recent years, consumer app designers have grown adept at using the native functions of the smartphone—touchscreen, microphone, GPS, accelerometer and the rest—to deliver mobile experiences that shape our behavior in new ways. We tap and swipe to purchase goods, hail rides and consume media. We chat with virtual assistants that translate our speech into text and then search the internet to find information for us.  



This is a global trend. In China, for example, the mobile messaging app WeChat has become a core utility for 1.1 billion people each month, who access its messaging and mobile payment functionality to chat, shop, pay bills and order meal deliveries, all from within the app.

Amid these profound shifts in the consumer mobile world, our mobile experiences at work often feel like relics from the 1990s. While there’s no shortage of mobile business apps, they generally fail to deliver the simple, intuitive experiences that we’ve come to expect in our personal lives. Instead they’re shrunken versions of desktop software that require us to scroll and type our way through complex forms on a small screen. 

So what does it take to bring consumer‑grade mobile experiences to the enterprise? I recently sat down with my ServiceNow colleague Boaz Hecht, who has spent the past several years wrestling with this question. He started his career at Deloitte and went on to found SkyGiraffe, a startup that created a cloud‑based platform to build custom business apps. 

Hecht has always been fascinated by the challenge of taking business data and making it actionable on mobile devices. “Our vision was to build enterprise apps at scale,” he says. That vision dovetailed nicely with that of ServiceNow, which provides a cloud‑based platform that our customers use to manage digital workflows across common business functions like IT, human resources, customer service and security.

ServiceNow acquired SkyGiraffe in 2017 and folded its technology into our Now Platform. The Now Platform Madrid release, which went live in early March, includes native mobile versions of our flagship IT service management and field service management products. It also includes the new ServiceNow Mobile Studio, which allows customers to build mobile ServiceNow apps quickly using a drag and drop interface.



Hecht points out that not every enterprise function lends itself to a consumer‑like mobile experience. Mobile experiences work beautifully for use cases that involve a limited number of concrete steps, such as managing approvals, making requests and searching for information. But we still need our PCs for more complex, open‑ended jobs like budgeting, creating rich content and building strategic plans.

What’s the future of enterprise mobile? “Chat and voice are going to be huge,” Hecht says.  

Today feels like a transition moment in the enterprise. Companies are rushing to create consumer‑like mobile experiences for their customers and employees. Yet in corporate America, knowledge workers commonly bring a laptop, phone and notebook to every meeting. We still need multiple tools to consume and process information, and so the enterprise mobile revolution remains a work in progress. 

Richard McGill Murphy is the editor in chief of Workflow. A journalist and social anthropologist by background, he runs a research and publishing program at ServiceNow that studies how emerging technologies are shaping the future of work.

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