Nick Barley, Chairman of B2B Ecommerce specialists Netalogue in a series of articles, muses on the impact millennials will have as they join the workplace… part two
In this article Nick Barley considers the impact of millennials on software design
The Bank holiday weekend has recently passed in the UK with its usual mix of weather us Brits have come to expect. And so it was with my usual amusement that I witnessed the legions of ‘denialists’ who, despite the weather conditions fly in the face of conformity.
Scraping the rust off the barbeque come rain or shine
This long weekend my best friend decided, despite the arctic weather, to break out the flip-flops, shorts and t-shirt. He is part of a band of citizens, weather denialists, who are scraping the rust off the barbeque come rain or shine annually on May 1st.
I celebrate the folk who are out barbequing sausages during a snowstorm, or who crack the ice for a New Years Day swim, or who picnic on the beach during a rain storm. We all have someone in our lives like this – and I love these people.
These are the optimists, the “never say never” people. These are people that create change and momentum when the odds are against them. They think differently.
As the Millennials assume control from the Baby Boomers
Talking of thinking differently…of course there is no denial that there is a sea-change of attitudes and values in our workplace as the Millennials assume control from the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers. Millennials are the first digital savvy, socially online savvy, generation who believe that because of technology they can work flexibly; anytime, anyplace.
Generation X are multi-taskers but Millennials are multi-taskers on steroids. They are impatient and attention flits from application to application, work to home, home to social, social to work. Technology supports this lifestyle and they understand how to use it.
The question is – does our business application accommodate this lifestyle and, if not, does it matter?
50% of the global workforce will be Millennials by 2020
Well, at Netalogue, yes we think it matters. Numerically it matters (50% of the global workforce will be Millennials by the year 2020). Culturally it matters. Whether we like the attitude and values of Millennials or not the fact is they are the increasing majority of people who will use, purchase and hopefully value our software going forward. We can’t ignore or deny this trend.
The first thing we are told about Millennials is that, despite all of this technological freedom, they need supervision, structure and discipline. Like Generation X they don’t mind direction but resent intrusive supervision. Millennials want independence in the workplace and informality.
This suggests to us that we need to design elegant, simple business process flows into our software that create guided structure, minimise keying errors but also allow flexibility. Support for all mobile devices and the ability to access business processes and information whilst on the move is a given. Millennials appreciate a team oriented workspace. They are used to online communities such as Facebook, Instagram and as such they require an interactive work environment.
Maybe help is better offered by online support…
So, for example, do Millennials need the traditional ‘help’ menus used in many computer applications? Maybe help is better offered by ability to seamlessly access online support & learning communities in social chat rooms without leaving the business application. Neuro-linguistic artificial intelligence functionality such as Apple’s Siri are becoming popular options and context sensitive assistance tools like WalkMe are another approach.
Eliminating redundant, unnecessary (to the core task), or simple intrusive, data input is also a fundamental design requirement for the Millennial. I read somewhere that one in three Millennials say they will abandon a discretionary transactions in a business application – such as applying for a new job or seeking product information – if they are asked to input some information more than once or asked unnecessary questions.
They don’t expect business software to “waste their time”
Simplicity, speed and unobtrusive are key watchwords here. All generations agree that they don’t expect business software to “waste their time” by re-entering information or importing data that already resides in another systems. For us at Netalogue it means superior integration to ERP and CRM applications to reduce data duplication and increase application intelligence. Self Service screens give greater insight to our customers’ users.
The simple and efficient theme continues as we consider that business applications must be designed for users as if they were consumers – and match the user experiences of consumer applications. At Netalogue we obsess about folding the advanced and sophisticated B2B functionality into elegant ‘B2C like’ user interfaces.
Personalisation of the business workspace
Finally we believe that greater care is needed to develop tools and processes to support faster response and more innovative solutions. Making our business applications look and act more like the lifestyle applications with which the Millennial interacts. This has many facets – the personalisation of the business workspace; use of social communities within business processes and workflows, the ability to use any device to access business data, on the move; seamless links to popular totals such as Facebook, Snapchat and instant messaging.
IT clearly has their work cut out to support the Millennial generation but if your organisation incorporates some of these ideas, you’ll gain a huge competitive advantage over other businesses that haven’t woken up to the opportunities brought about by the demands of the Millennial workforce.
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