First, employees brought their own devices into the workplace; now they’re bringing their own apps as well.
Our interface to “work” has changed. That ‘interface’ used to be the threshold of a commercial building: once through the doors and with a quick scan of a proximity pass, people physically entered their workday.
Now, the workplace is virtual. An employee’s entire experience of work is app-based. Be that Salesforce, Webex, Microsoft O365, or any other SaaS app that helps us do our job, wherever we are. That interface to “work” is through a computer screen, and then perhaps a single sign-on portal where links to all these critical applications sit or a secure connection to the office-based desktop.
While apps now play a critical role in employees’ ability to work, they’ve not yet been afforded the same attention as other elements of the work-from-home experience.
Research by Gartner shows that new technology or devices are just as important to workplace productivity as being able to work flexibly from anywhere. Arguably though, employers have put far more effort into flexible work arrangements than they have into the technology that enables it.
There has been some work put in to narrowing the gap between old and new ways of working. For example, “The mass adoption of video conferencing apps means we are close to truly feeling like we are in the same room as our colleagues,” KPMG Australia notes.
Employees care about the corporate apps put in front of them and the quality of the experience they deliver. Many see room for improvement, and to their credit, Australian employers are listening.
A recent EY survey in Australia found 84% of employees “are looking for better digital tools,” while 79% of employers “are looking to extensively/moderately change digital workforce tools.”
In addition, the 2021 Cisco Accelerating Digital Agility Report found 86% of the 23,000 CIOs and IT leaders worldwide agree it is vital to empower a distributed workforce with seamless access to applications and high-quality collaborative experiences. More than three-quarters said that user experience should focus on delight versus satisfaction.
To achieve that, businesses are surveying employees directly about their app experiences, collecting feedback on current approaches and getting a sense of what employees want or need when working remotely.
From that, businesses are starting to relax some of the more stringent locked-down IT policies of the past decade and offer employees more choice over the tools they favour or prefer, especially if it means keeping those employees happy and productive in a challenging period.
The rise of BYOA
Staff want a more open selection of apps and more control over their digital experience.
In response, employers are moving away from standardised digital tooling and are instead supporting a Bring Your Own Application (BYOA) approach.
Employees may favour a particular application over others for a range of reasons. For example, they may be more familiar with a specific app, making them more productive; or it might perform better due to particular characteristics of the app. Such as it being served from a location that is closer, physically and logically to the employee’s place of residence, resulting in lower latency and smoother performance.
Allowing employees to BYOA will inevitably create an order of magnitude increase in the size of supported IT estates. That’s already happening: a recent survey found “45% of respondents are using more workplace apps than they did six months ago”, with 69% “using between three to 10 apps daily.”
It also adds a new level of complexity for IT departments, who will be faced with having to field and support an increased number of software-as-a-service apps - both corporate sanctioned and one-offs, as brought in by employees - that they do not own nor have any control over. Support issues with these apps can’t be fixed directly by a business’s IT team in the same way that legacy IT did.
To manage this extended app stack, businesses need visibility technology that goes beyond the enterprise’s four walls and enables them to offer a consistent, app-agnostic digital experience.
As well as requiring new monitoring technologies, this new reality also requires a new monitoring psychology. In many cases, evidencing the origin of a problem and escalating to the provider best able to help solve it may well be the only way to achieve resolution. Approaching the provider with a data-driven view of a problem and its precise cause means they can take quicker actionable steps to correct it.
This is a fundamentally more proactive approach to digital experience, but one that is required as businesses embrace BYOA and exponentially expand the number of apps under their watch.