Though Microsoft Word still hasn’t accepted “consumerization” as a real word, pretty much everyone in an IT-related field has. This trend is transforming how IT teams build and deploy applications to the workforce.

It began with a shift from a world of company-owned devices to one where employees increasingly provide their own. Despite concerns over corporate data security and compliance, employees wanted freedom to use the latest-and-greatest smartphones, tablets and laptops. They were also able and willing to pay for them.

That was only the beginning though. Consumer apps exploded in popularity and availability. Their intuitive, simple and even elegant designs made typically clunky, unintuitive business apps seem like dinosaurs.

ConsumerizationA superior user experience (UX) made consumer apps so popular that employees started using them to get their work done. That only made controlling corporate data even more difficult. Finally, software vendors and IT departments woke up: to get employees to use their enterprise apps, they had to deliver a UX on par with consumer apps.

But there’s more to consumerization than just enjoyable UX.

Employees are consumers

Among consumer apps with roughly the same features, often the only real differentiator is the UX. The success (or failure) of an app is determined by the intuitiveness of the interface and how slickly it hides the complexity of the operations underneath.

For example, the number of features most amateur photographers will use in a photo app is fairly limited. The winning app is the one that looks and feels best.

Why should your employees be any different? Employees expect and deserve clean intuitive user designs, just like consumers do. It’s the whole experience that makes an app worth using, not just its capabilities.

With BYOD and BYOA as the norm, employees have access to first-rate UX apps at their fingertips. Given a choice between a slick, personal file sharing tool and an ugly, hard-to-navigate web app written by someone down the hall, which one do you think they’ll pick? Of course: the one that’s most intuitive and has the kind of interface they’ve come to expect on their devices.

Beyond a pretty face

A preference for a certain kind of experience and ease-of-use also extends to desktop applications. To provide this kind of familiar experience on enterprise apps makes work much more pleasurable. Certainly this is true when compared with some of our legacy apps.

Consumerized enterprise apps let user productivity soar and can allow you to regain a measure of control over your information.

Still, consumerization must go beyond just a pretty UI. The real driver has to be improving the way work gets done. That means presenting the required information and functionality in a way that makes sense to everyone involved.

For example, tasks, controls and fields should be labeled the way your own workers know them, not using generic, industry-neutral tags, and certainly not with some esoteric column name from a database table. (We’ve all seen these in off-the-shelf applications.)

A successful enterprise app should also be adaptable to the different business personas that will use it. Different personas (whether role- or function-based) need different interfaces. Each one has unique responsibilities, requiring different information to be presented in a format usable for someone in that role.

For example, a technical support engineer needs a different view of his customer than does a billing service representative. A single all-encompassing customer view might work for a database guy in IT, but it would overwhelm a billing analyst and quite likely raise compliance issues.

Improving the pace of work

Consumerization of IT demands we provide our enterprise user apps with the intuitive qualities found in consumer apps. This includes native mobile apps, desktop apps and web apps.

But beyond a slick user experience, we have to build these new apps around the personas of those that will have to use them to do real work. That means presenting different information to different people, while still staying within a consistent, intuitive interface – one that, frankly, doesn’t feel so much like work after all. Only then will we realize improvement in the pace, volume and accuracy of our employees’ efforts.

To learn more about how we personalize and consumerize the experience of enterprise content management, request a consultation today.