Gartner predicts that by 2013, 40% of enterprise knowledge workers will have removed their desk phone, as illustrated in this great infographic on this history of the knowledge worker.
I’m one of those 40%. I participate in online meetings while soaking up the sun on my deck. I’m drafting this blog post from the Sleepless Goat, a funky little cooperative café in Kingston Ontario where I spend one morning each week writing. I participate in meetings and discussions using my smartphone.
We’ve finally reached the tipping point for mobile, crossing the chasm from early adopters to the mainstream. While this is happening faster in the consumer world than within the enterprise, the enterprise mobile revolution has begun. And that means we need to rethink how we enable knowledge workers to share information, learn, and connect with each other in their day-to-day work.
In The New Edge in Knowledge Carla O’Dell urges knowledge managers to ask the question “is there an app for that?” Although we’re creatures of habit, we’re more willing to embrace change when it helps us achieve our goals, fits the way we work, and helps us more effectively achieve the outcomes we’re responsible for.
Hey, I’m mobile! Meet Gary, road warrior
The evolution of the knowledge worker infographic got me thinking about Gary, a mobile road warrior persona I created earlier this year.
A persona is a tool for capturing insights and behaviors of a group of people. Instead of an abstract user, it allows you to design content, products, services, or experiences for a “real” person. It creates empathy, focus, and serves as a social object in a way that’s impossible with the elastic concept of user. While the job reflected in Gary’s persona is sales, his road warrior characteristics and behaviors apply equally to executives and consultants.
Can I have an app for that? Three future scenarios
The real value of personas emerge when you use them as a tool for storytelling. And scenarios are a great storytelling tool to use with personas. Scenarios are more powerful than traditional requirements because they put requirements into context and allow you to ask “What future do we want to create?” Scenarios help you overcome a natural tendency to interpret information in terms of old beliefs or assumptions by allowing you to easily generate multiple future possibilities.
Based on how a mobile road warrior currently works, the scenarios below are a starting point for imagining possibilities of a mobile future beyond what Gary might think to ask for.
Scenario 1: Answers (push and pull) at his fingertips
Gary answers a client call. During the conversation, a couple of questions arise: one about the contract and one about a service issue. In the past Gary might have spent hours on the phone chasing down answers from experts in various departments within his organization (or even trying to figure out who the experts are). But in the future, he can get answers faster using an app on his Smartphone. First, he looks up the customer. From a screen that pulls together the key information about that customer, he clicks to see contract details. And if he needs any additional clarification, he posts his question to the contract’s comment feed. Returning to the customer view, he also sees there are two outstanding service issues. He clicks to get more background about the issue the client is calling about. He also notices a new issue was just reported and takes a quick look so he can brief his client on the status of that issue as well. Gary knows his responsiveness is one of the things his clients most appreciate. And his mobile app allows him to pull the information and answers he needs, when he needs them.
Scenario 2: Teachable moments
At Gary’s company, innovation is a corporate objective. A key KPI is revenue from recently introduced products. The company’s biggest challenge in meeting this objective is the ingrained habits of the sales force. Gary prefers to sell what he knows.
When in front of a client discussing their goals and pain points, without past experience to draw on he has no easy way to relate the pain points to the new products he’s being asked to sell. He fears questions about details he can’t answer. He doesn’t want to look stupid. He worries that he’s putting his reputation on the line.
His company discovered that connecting salespeople with technical experts in R&D accelerated Gary’s learning cycle, increased his comfort level, and fostered trust – increasing his willingness to sell the unfamiliar products. Gary now has access to the knowledge and support he needs to sell the new products during teachable moments. Each time he works with a client, each time he asks a question using his Smartphone, posing a question, looking up an answer, or sharing insight is a teachable moment. And most of Gary’s teachable moments occur when he’s mobile. From the product brief, he can post a question to the Pulse thread (think Twitter for the enterprise) for the document which is monitored by technical experts. As soon as he posts a question, he gets his answer.
Scenario 3: In the flow knowledge sharing
During a recent client meeting, an interesting new use of one of his company’s products surfaced. In the past, Gary probably wouldn’t have shared this back with the product management or marketing teams within his organization. Waiting until he was back in the office and figuring out how to share this knowledge in a separate system or tracking down who best to share the idea with was just too much trouble. And the odd time he did make the effort, nothing seemed to come of it. But now he can share ideas from his Smartphone into an Idea Exchange while in the flow of his work. He can see what others think of the idea and track it’s progress through a simple collaborative workflow that all posted ideas move through.
The Magic If: Do we need an app for that?
Instead of being frustrated with the apparent unwillingness of road warriors to change how they work to adopt a new application, process, or workflow, why not try putting yourself in Gary’s shoes using the Magic If. Ask yourself: “What if I were in the same situation as Gary?” Using what you learn, dig deeper and ask “What if I could design an app for that?” You may discover an opportunity to deliver a solution Gary is much more likely to adopt because it fits the way he works while at the same time ensuring you can address corporate goals that include compliance, security, and information management.
Here are six questions to help you think through some of the challenges and opportunities you’ll face when considering designing an app for Gary:
- What if you could design an app that supports Gary in his goal of building customer relationships and increasing customer loyalty? Too often, the enterprise systems Gary is expected to work with are deployed to support the organization, not Gary’s goal of building relationships. This results in adoption problems, missed opportunities to deliver innovative solutions, and failure to fully leverage the potential value of an ECM system.
- What if you could design an app that connects Gary, who has a wealth of customer knowledge, into the tacit knowledge (through social networks) and explicit knowledge (through knowledge repositories) within your organization? What value would this have?
- What if you could design an app that’s integrate into the flow of Gary’s work? What does just in time knowledge and just in time learning look like?
- What outcomes are you looking for, how do they relate to your corporate strategy, and how should these influence your app’s design? For example, perhaps your corporate strategy is to increase customer loyalty as measured through Net Promoter Score (NPS) or increase innovation as measured by sales of new products. The second scenario above is one example of how to weave outcomes tied to corporate strategy into an app’s design.
- Are you designing an app for the right persona? If the road warrior persona in your organization is more of a match for what’s known in sales as a hunter, the motivations underlying their behavior drive them from deal to deal. No app will convert a hunter into a farmer.
- Are you prepared for the cultural change required? Gary won’t necessarily share just because he has an app. Nor will those behind the scenes, such as the technical experts, product managers, or service representatives featured in the above scenarios. You’ll need an adoption strategy to support the behavior and cultural change required for full, effective adoption of your app.