SXSW: Consumerization of IT Trend Shows No Sign of Slowing

I was able to hit two sessions yesterday afternoon in the Four Seasons here at SXSW, apparently ground zero for us more sober “enterprise” types, one on enterprise mobile apps and one on gamification + Big Data (“datagamify”). What connected them, in my mind, is the consumerization of IT. This is the concept that employees are increasingly expecting their experience with technology in the workplace to be as simple, fun and engaging as their experience with technology in their personal lives.

Long crowds await the SXSW Interactive opening keynote.
Long crowds await the SXSW Interactive opening keynote.

Eric Lai from SAP observed that 80 percent of the Fortune 500 has adopted iPhones and 65 percent of them iPads. Predictably now, the fastest growing category of apps in the Apple App Store is enterprise apps, and by 2016, that market will be worth more than $7 billion a year (IDC data). And yet Alex Williams from TechCrunch noted that most of these enterprise apps are ugly and that hurts usage. Employees don’t want manuals to learn how to do things anymore.

Meanwhile, the gamification advocates are motivated by a sense that life is a game. Plotting your career, for instance, is viewed in some ways as a game. We can now use apps and Web experiences to enhance these gaming aspects of our lives, to encourage our audiences to learn and engage.

One of the areas where these trends both come into play for B2B is around online customer communities. I suspect that tolerance for complicated, dry, blandly designed internal and customer communities by the users of those communities will wane. It won’t be enough to have one that functions.  Making it work – in other words, generating great engagement – will require more attention paid to elegant design and fun experience.