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By Ashruti Singh, Director of Product Marketing, SAP Cloud Platform, SAP

Part One in The Digital Platform Blog Series: Laying the Foundation for an Intelligent Enterprise

The convergence of the physical world with all things digital is altering every aspect of our everyday lives. Mobile phones dominate our attention as we continuously use them to inform ourselves and communicate with friends and family through a variety of chat, video, and text apps. On-demand streaming of movies and television episodes is quickly becoming a favourite pastime. Even intelligent assistants such as Alexa and Siri are guiding shopping decisions and refining our personal music libraries.

While conventional wisdom says that progress is good, there’s always a catch – and this is undoubtedly the case with our growing reliance on digital experiences. Six years from now, a large percentage of the workforce will hardly remember, if at all, life without smart devices. And as an ever-growing number of digital channels, from conversational artificial intelligence to augmented and virtual reality, cater to the needs of this new generation, businesses need to quickly change how they operate. (But don’t take my word for it, hear it from Tim Cook.)

Thanks to this emerging reality, many executives are facing a challenging dilemma: either they provide a range of digital experiences to employees, partners, or customers or risk losing business agility due to pre-digital engagement practices.

Delivering Experiences that Matter---Everywhere---Is Paramount

Most business leaders understand that a great customer experience is not possible unless their employees and partners have an excellent experience. Whether an experience is designed for customers or employees, they’re going to expect that same immersive, cognitive, and trusted experience every time. But more importantly, when each experience consistently delivers on that promise at every touchpoint, the company gains an advocate for life.

However, according to Scott Snyder, a senior fellow at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, adjunct professor of engineering at the University of Pennsylvania, and a partner at Heidrick Consulting, most companies are falling short.

“The first thing they fail to do is work from the customer backwards – start with the customer experience,” Snyder says. “If you just look at mobile as a proxy, and mobile and smartphones have been around quite a while, 60% of applications on mobile devices get abandoned after five uses . . . That’s not a great track record for industry, which means we’re falling short on building good experiences.”

Why is that? Here are two reasons to consider:

  1. Business processes span various systems for a user

    • It’s not unusual that organisations use systems that do not follow the same design principles. The IT landscape is commonly built over time – with new applications and tools from different vendors or release versions added incrementally.

    • For example, travel approval and expense claims go hand in hand from a process perspective, but they rarely follow each other in one application. And you’re lucky if you didn’t have to fill in an offline excel sheet for one of these.

  1. UIs are often driven by application scope, not an interaction flow or end-to-end process​.

    • Jumping between applications is frustrating and definitely not seamless. And when older UIs are used, it nearly impossible to get everyone on the same page.

    • Monolithic applications are like opening a refrigerator: ​we don’t always remember why we opened the door in the first place. Let’s say you go in to quickly execute a small task such as leave approval. You would have gone through everything that your HR system offers before you are forced to exit the portal after being distracted by something else – and never addressing the original request.

The Solution: Design Better, Develop Faster, and Integrate Better

Innovating without disrupting operations is not easy. However, for some companies, the path toward optimised experiences is best done with a cloud platform. This deployment environment gives them the freedom to design experiences accurately, innovate at speed, integrate with the backend data sources, and expand their developer pool.

Take, for example, Waterwatch Cooperative. The developer and provider of global food-security technology is making vast volumes of data and complex algorithms easy to use with a cloud platform. And it is through this capability that led to the creation of its Crop Disease Alert app, which warns farmers – whether or not they regularly rely on technology – when their crops are at risk of disease.

The app gathers data from a variety of sources to alert farmers from their smartphones if a given field is in danger, allowing them to act quickly to avert potential disaster. Farmers can also provide feedback, which helps Waterwatch further customise its services to a specific field, crop, or farmer’s needs – all for a cost to the farmer of US$1 per year. The result has been a significant reduction in pesticide use and crop disease for farmers using the app.

Future Business Success Depends on Experience Innovation

The innovation story of Waterwatch Cooperative is an excellent reminder that technology adoption and business impact is best ensured when there is a simple experience in front of complex technology.

At the end of the day, providing a great digital experience is critical for any business in this day and age, regardless of whether you engage with customers, partners, or employees. Luckily, cloud platforms give developers the innovation haven they need to create such experiences across applications and channels, while keeping the user at the centre of everything they do quickly without disrupting operations.

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