Reimagining Experiences Using Social, Mobile, Analytics and Cloud

Pankaj Arora
This is a guest post by Pankaj Arora, leader of the Modern IT Innovation Group with teams in Redmond, Washington and Hyderabad, India. Pankaj’s previous post on Modern IT principles is located here and for more on Microsoft IT’s modernization strategy, including real world examples, watch the video at the bottom of this post.
As the IT organization within Microsoft, we’re committed to reimagining enterprise experiences using the technology megatrends including: social, mobile, analytics and cloud. As we think about trends and the future of IT, it has evolved beyond users simply bringing consumer devices into the enterprise—they also are bringing in expectations. The 180,000 users of IT services at Microsoft expect great user experiences that rival consumer apps, built with the agility seen through updates to their favorite apps and services. The proliferation of devices and services means they are increasingly savvy technology users and better understand the possibilities.
I find that large enterprises are challenged to meet these expectations given the complex legacy ecosystems, as well as data and capabilities trapped within application and organizational silos. In efforts to innovate and adopt the megatrends enterprises also run the risk of creating too many new apps—clutter that makes life harder for users. Therefore, a key strategy we are pursuing is to create reusable services and holistic unconstrained experiences that together can streamline the creation and delivery of application capabilities. Key takeaways to this approach include:
  • Build reusable services, not application features. These are services that transcend apps and foster a deep shared services model, as opposed to building app-specific features that are locked within that context. A shared services model eventually creates an agility snowball effect—efficiencies that can be directed towards high-value activities like innovation.
  • Build experiences for multiple platforms, yet think about app consolidation. Services reuse can power multiple device experiences, such as across phones and tablets. While new device experiences may translate into more apps, the counterbalance is deciding what should be individual apps versus a more holistic experience. For example, does an enterprise really need numerous approval apps? For most organizations, I believe one streamlined app that connects to the services powering major approval scenarios is an ideal experience. In terms of platforms, recent data from Microsoft shows more than half of our users (and growing) want request management scenarios, such as approvals, available on phones and tablets.
  • Be user-centric instead of organization-centric. Don’t let org charts define the app. Instead pivot off users or segments of users. Build intelligent apps that address their needs and work across business groups. The reason many organizations have so many similar apps, such as the approvals example, often has to do with building apps within an org-centric framework – each org silo creates similar apps. So make the user the customer looking outside-in, and keep in mind success isn’t just implementing the right business logic – it’s providing an experience users love and adopt.
  • Utilize the latest trends along the way. The tech megatrends are a means to an end. Utilize the cloud to build highly-scalable, reusable services, and benefit from its reduced operational overhead. Social, analytics, and concepts like location awareness can help build intelligent “digital assistant” style apps that add further to the user experience. Delivering for “mobile-first” is a popular sentiment. A lot of web traffic has already moved to mobile, and the limited form factor of phones mandates simplicity in the experience—simplicity that can set the tone and design patterns for other eventual platforms like tablet – an added benefit of mobile-first.
How an organization delivers is of vital importance. We recommend an agile, iterative approach. Work fast, get feedback early and often. Build storyboards with designers and users—not lengthy business requirements documents with managers. Think big, but start small; identify low risk scenarios that can be reimagined as a starting point. It’s often best to come to the table with a prototype to accelerate the conversation and buy-in.
For more information on our approach, including three Microsoft IT examples that together highlight the agility snowball effect in action, watch the video here (start at 8:50 to jump to the device and app examples, 11:10 to jump to the demos):
Pankaj Arora
Microsoft IT