The 2019 Insight Intelligent Technology Index (ITI), an annual survey of 1,000 IT professionals across Europe, detailed four ‘paradigm shifts’ that are changing the way that organisations and their IT departments operate.
One of these shifts is the ‘Elevated Employee Experience’, a trend which sees organisations create a modern workplace by adopting technology that reflects changing employee expectations and requirements.
Organisations that acknowledge and embrace these changes are able to increase employee engagement and productivity, driving efficiencies across the business and maximising the potential of digital transformation initiatives. Businesses of all sizes stand to make gains and the effects are amplified for SMBs.
The consumerisation of IT means employees are more demanding when it comes to technology. Staff want to use the same devices and applications at work as they do in their personal lives and can be less engaged if they’re not given the tools they desire.
Less than one third of employees say they are happy with their employer’s approach to technology. Meanwhile, four out of five of employees have reported a disadvantage at work because they have been unable to use their preferred technology.
The shift is being caused by the influence of digital natives and increasingly accessible consumer technology such as smartphones and social media. Before the smartphone, employees would often use different devices for personal and work purposes.
As the popularity of the iPhone and Android devices grew, carrying two devices became undesirable and employees wanted freedom of choice. An iPhone user might resent having to use a BlackBerry (which failed to keep up with its rivals at the turn of the decade) for work, because that was the only option.
Meanwhile user-friendly applications such as WhatsApp, Dropbox, and Skype have changed expectations.
Whereas workers may have accepted the standard issue PCs and software of the 1990s and 2000s, the growing importance of technology and connectivity to everyday life means they want to use the same tools at work as they do at home.
Until recently, it was the risk of ‘Shadow IT’ (the use of corporate data and applications on unauthorised devices) that was the biggest risk to organisations. Now it seems organisations are increasingly aware of the consumerisation of IT and the potential productivity gains that might be forfeited by not embracing the trend.
This awareness has resulted in less restrictive IT policies, the adoption of more user-friendly business applications, and the ability to use a personal device for work purposes. Meanwhile, the industry has adapted by including consumer features in their solutions and offering tools, such as Mobile Device Management (MDM) platforms, that give administrators the same control and security features.
According to the 2019 ITI, seven in ten IT decision makers (ITDMs) believe it is “very or extremely important” for corporate IT to have a consumer like experience, while three quarters think the workforce is more technically literate than two years ago.
Crucially, 74% think the use of modern technology is important for the attraction and retention of talent. Organisations with restrictive IT policies that don’t allow employees to access personal accounts on corporately owned devices, or for the remote access of corporate applications on personal hardware, stand to miss out.
Research suggests 67% of workers wish they were able to work from home and 30% state they would choose flexible working over a pay rise if they were only able to choose one perk. Nearly half of people say technology is also a factor when choosing between prospective employers.
The failure to take into account employee expectations is an increasingly unsustainable position to hold.
Any technology that promises to drive business change, increase efficiency and drive productivity will only be successful if the workforce is engaged. If employees are forced to use something or if the technology demands a high level of technical literacy, then the project is likely to fail.
However, if the solution requires few new skills and reflects the consumer services that staff use in everyday life, then it is likely to be more successful. More than half of ITDMs say complaints about user experience, a lack of features, or the inability to use personal accounts have decreased over the past two years as the consumerisation of IT gathers pace. Two fifths of IT professionals also say that complaints about hard to use tools have fallen during the same period.
Many businesses are identifying new ways to ensure their employees have access to the latest technology. Subscription-based managed services and cloud services are gaining popularity because of the ability to predict refresh cycles and reduce costs. Half of ITDMs have invested in managed services in the past year and 46% plan to invest over the next two years.
Meanwhile, Device-as-a-Service (DaaS) combines procurement, additional services and ongoing maintenance into a single subscription. For SMBs, this has the added benefit of lowering capital expenditure.
The adoption of these services eases the maintenance burden on SMBs with limited resources and allows IT departments to focus on higher value projects that drive business change. But the ITI report also identified the benefits of automation and self-maintenance.
As many as 79% of organisations offer devices ready out of the box for employees and 75% offer self-service device selection. ITDMs report that self-service and automation make employees feel more empowered and 60% make it a priority to give employees easy access to information so they can find answers to their questions more rapidly.
Digital transformation can deliver huge benefits to SMBs. The greater use of technology can drive efficiencies, open up new revenue streams and allow smaller organisations to compete with larger rivals. But it’s important to choose the right technology and take into account the demands of the people who will actually use it – the workforce.