While programmers focusing on business software and those building consumer-facing applications work with distinct considerations, there is no question that the two sides of development affect one another. The proliferation of the accessible, user-friendly iPhone is perhaps the most prominent example of how consumer-grade technology can make its way into the enterprise, and the same theme has reared its head in software development.
Legacy strategies tend to take a top-down approach in which software development relies solely on directives from higher ups. Given the emergence of IT services that focus on self-service and usability, however, this approach is likely to leave end users frustrated and result in lower return-on-investment than programs designed from an employee's perspective. As PCWorld recently reported, this trend was prominently displayed by several major software providers. For example, human capital management vendor Workday began an HTML5 development project to improve its cloud-based platform. Some of the new interface changes include:
While its platform has undergone significant advancement, Workday is taking customer experience a step further by not forcing users to leverage features until they are ready. PCWorld noted that the platform allows customers to toggle new functionality on as they see fit, meaning that users are not overburdened with features all at once.
Increased focus on user-centric design
As user-centric concerns take hold throughout the software development industry, it means that internal programmers should also accommodate the need for customization. In Workday's case, toggling features as needed helped with the on-ramping process. However, similar functionality can be helpful for users with different needs. While many stakeholders may need access to the same database, the information most pertinent to each employee will likely be different. Features such as customizable dashboards within reporting tools can make it easier for users to get the information they need.
Customizing business applications was once the sole domain of programmers, and these professionals still play a critical role in creating apps with the robust functionality end users require. However, newer tools give end users some control over how information is displayed and the way their programs function. Even in scenarios in which it would be best to keep the reigns in the hands of IT, it is essential to incorporate user concerns throughout the design process. In outlining software development platform qualities that would maximize return on investment, IBM proposed that it would be helpful to leverage a "unified application model" that could be easily altered based on the needs of particular users. Mobile development is one area that benefits significantly from such an approach.
"To optimize their productivity and effectiveness, developers need a platform that provides the flexibility to easily implement either mobile web or native mobile applications," IBM's white paper stated. "Providing support for mobile web means developers can deliver mobile access without the expense and complexity of having to design and maintain separate code bases for each mobile platform."