Kiwi design on the rise as user centred apps disrupt enterprise

Across New Zealand, business leaders are all too keen to spout the usual rhetoric of operating at the cutting-edge of innovation. But...

Across New Zealand, business leaders are all too keen to spout the usual rhetoric of operating at the cutting-edge of innovation.

As they like to project to the industry, they are the forward-thinking folk in the room, the pioneers of technology and all it encompasses.

From the outside in, businesses are quick to paint themselves as shining beacons of invention in this new era of digitalisation.

Yet behind the walls the reality can be quite different – as those tasked with driving innovation become left behind by an outdated internal approach to enterprise applications.

Travel back 40 years and the cool technology of the world was found in the workplace, but today, it’s in the hands of the consumer, driving the rise of the design led enterprise.

“Enterprises are now willing to explore a different approach to applications,” says Matt Pickering, Managing Director, NV Interactive, an internationally recognised New Zealand based digital agency. “We’re seeing a huge gap in the market and find that once businesses become aware of the disruptive potential of design lead enterprise applications, there is a real appetite for it.”

Drawing on 17 years experience across web, mobile and app development, Pickering believes organisations are beginning to understand the benefits of better running businesses from the palms of employee hands, built around the notion of fusing design and functionality at an enterprise level.

Not to be confused with simply bringing consumer apps into the enterprise, Pickering’s approach focuses on producing efficient business applications that adopt key consumer attributes of user centric design and a focus on usability, thus ensuring a high adoption level.

In short, the beautification of enterprise apps is rising, as businesses seek new ways to rollout applications that employees won’t hate.

“Too often enterprise applications are led by IT departments and usually, the technical people forget about the end user experience,” says Pickering, speaking exclusively to Computerworld New Zealand at Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2015 in Orlando, Florida.

“The typical view of enterprise applications are that they provide clunky and outdated experiences for the user, yet we’ve found that taking a design led approach has tangible bottom line impacts for business.”

Citing PGG Wrightson as an example, an agricultural supply business based in New Zealand, Pickering says NV Interactive’s user experience design initiatives helped the company better utilise employee productivity, through a fresh approach to CRM applications.

“It’s a great example of providing a consumer looking application that delivers enterprise functionality in the workplace,” Pickering explains.

As a long time Microsoft partner, with a range of local and global accolades for application development, Pickering says NV Interactive helped paint a picture of what PGG Wrightson’s CRM processes could actually look like, with the end result being a compelling experience for the company’s out in the field workers.

“In this instance, PGG Wrightson understood that if they didn’t get employee buy-in for the application, which was built for the company’s outbound sales team, then it wouldn’t significantly impact the business,” Pickering adds.

“This was essentially built for working with farmers out in the field.”

“As a result, this required a different approach to how the application was delivered, as opposed to just providing the team with CRM and hoping for the best.

“Our approach was to design an application that engaged employees, addressing their needs as opposed to the business needs, otherwise they’d just revert back to their old ways of operating.”

Referring to a classic case in point, Pickering recalls one rural sales worker, a top-performing sales employee, which needed to be catered for in a different manner to traditional enterprise application rollouts.

“His way of working was to write down notes while with the client, climb back into his Ute and scribble them onto the inside of his windscreen with a whiteboard market,” he explains.

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“That was his way of working, and it worked for him. He’s a perfect example of the type of employee that required a user-centric approach to application development, to ensure a maximum return for the business.”

While PGG Wrightson is the latest organisation to utilise NV Interactive’s user experience, Pickering says interest is strong for the company’s design led approach to enterprise applications.

Through working with global brands such as BBC, USA Today and ESPN, NV Interactive is well versed in the art of app development, crafting solutions for a host of big names across the world from the company’s two studios in Wellington and Christchurch.

“Through working with our global clients, and local ones across New Zealand, to create consumer applications, we are well-placed to transfer this approach to enterprise,” Pickering adds. “We know how to connect with people and understand the need to create a compelling experience, irrespective of whether we’re targeting consumers or business workers.”

While injecting design-thinking into organisations is commonplace for NV Interactive, also operating with expertise in producing strategy and technical executions for businesses, Pickering is quick to acknowledge the cautious nature of some business leaders, leaders who resist the urge to be seduced by sexy apps in the workplace.

“Everyone fundamentally understands that something that is a pleasure to use will get used more, this is well understood as a concept,” Pickering adds. “But it’s more an understanding of the business case.

“From engaging with businesses, we believe the key challenges to executing a design led approach to applications centre mainly around budget constraints in an enterprise context.

“But also, the decision making process within this type of environment usually requires someone actively driving change within the organisation.”

Similar to arguably the most powerful marketing phrase ever created, ’no one ever got fired for buying IBM’, the growing prominence of taking a design led approach to enterprise applications still heavily relies on business decision makers being willing to take a chance.

A chance in the respect of seeking new ways to add value, new ways to engage employees and new ways to drive growth.

Hiding in the shadows of tradition however doesn’t lend itself to change.

“Attitudes are changing,” Pickering adds. “Enterprise are looking for new ways to drive value across their business and the rise of design led applications represents part of the shift in power from the CIO to the CMO. It’s growing steadily but we’re definitely seeing more of this.”

With the company gradually increasing its presence within the enterprise market, and continuing to drive growth in the consumer space, speculation continues to mount as to where NV Interactive will next set up shop.

“Our third studio was always going to be in Auckland,” Pickering says. “But we’re now seeing more and more business opportunities in Australia and the UK so it’s a case of responding to demand.”

Built on organic growth, the NV Interactive model is to remain “small by design”, ensuring that the growing Kiwi firm stays nimble and agile enough to change tact and evolve in the ever-changing world of technology. This nimbleness is based on a strategy of a network of boutique studios

“Our position is that we don’t have to force the issue,” he adds. “We will expand and make a move when the time is right. We now have a proven model that will scale when the time is right.

“No studio will be bigger than 20-25 people and the key for us is to find the right talent to fill it.

“We’re very selective about our team and recognise the need to create a strong culture across the company, whether that be in Wellington or Christchurch – or Sydney, New York or London.”

While Pickering possesses the luxury of setting the company’s agenda, and not being bound by external pressures, the same cannot be said for the enterprise market.

Undergoing constant transformation as the need to drive greater value becomes imperative, the rise of design led applications represents a new era for enterprise.

And by virtue of operating in such a market of untapped potential, NV Interactive, in riding the crest of the application wave, will be certain to expand with it, from its humble roots on Kiwi shores, to the larger markets of the US, UK, Australia and beyond.