Post by Joe Ruck, President & CEO of BoardVantage
No matter the environment, executives expect information at their fingertips. On mobile devices that means a visual experience that lets them accelerate their decision-making in meetings, and while on the go.
Consumer apps are now the standard-bearers for good software design. Aware of this trend, business users have raised their expectations and are making user-experience a key criterion in their purchase selections. But unlike consumer apps, business software captures a range of workflows and user preferences. The experience a sales team wants from CRM is different from what a lawyer seeks from a virtual data room. What finance wants from an accounting system is different from what directors look for from their board portal, and so forth. So what is the right combination of ingredients for a leadership team? At BoardVantage we have identified four focal points for creating a truly executive experience:
The same forces that drove technology into the boardroom are now sweeping across enterprise leadership teams. Geographic dispersion and the ascent of the iPad have convinced executives to rethink long-standing email and paper process with initiatives such as "leave the laptop behind" or "go paperless". Underneath these efforts lies a common theme: the need to go mobile. It's common to think of mobility as synonymous with being online, but as business travelers know, network access is spotty on the road, and often unavailable in conference settings. Delivering a good user experience means creating an offline capability, but that capability needs to be designed around a seamless online/offline experience. Without that capability, the system will not find acceptance among leadership teams.
There is also the matter of devices. Unlike a few years ago, the market is no longer just about iPads. Other tablets have gained popularity and smart phones are capable of handling tasks that not long ago could only be performed on laptops. That's why in 2014, mobility means support for the full range of devices and operating systems no longer just iPads and iOS.
A thorny challenge in software development is screen-size limitations of mobile devices. It is doubly difficult to convey complex information so common in the executive suite. What further compounds the challenge is that executives usually are not open to spending time learning new tools. Yet, when they access the system, they still expect to locate what they need — promptly and efficiently. The best way to bridge that gap is to make their experience visual. A visual presentation lets the user absorb information quicker and makes complex information actionable even from something as a diminutive as a smart phone. On mobile devices, graphics and animation are the key to overcoming screen size limitations.
A rich interface goes hand-in-hand with a good experience, but before users will relinquish long-standing process, they require productivity improvements in their day-to-day activities. For members of leadership teams, that means introducing context along with content throughout their environment. Individual documents can be presented in the context of an agenda. A current meeting can be presented in the context of a timeline of previous meetings and events can be presented in the context of a calendar. For executives who are often overloaded with information, contextualizing will provide the productivity increase that many look for today.
The 24x7 business environment has reset expectations for executive communication. Always on the go, they need process continuity, whether in meetings or in between, in the office or on the road. The fact is that it is continuity that drives efficiency, but more importantly, continuity also accelerates the decision-making process. That requires more than passive document sharing. What's important is to offer a range of productivity tools that can capture the typical process execs are involved in: Web conferencing to let them present at remote meetings, approvals for green-lighting initiatives or eSigning agreements, and secure email to support the need for one-on-one communication. They all share the same objective — driving process while on the go.