This week at F8, Facebook’s developer conference, Workplace took a step towards the future of enterprise software by announcing a new Integration Directory.
It’s now possible to connect Workplace to other, best of breed, enterprise applications, including Jira, Sharepoint, and Survey Monkey.
We know that people will always want to use multiple tools to get work done, and we believe that these tools should be seamlessly interoperable, no matter which platform you’re using.
We call this strategy Better Together. But in order to understand why it’s such a powerful idea, it’s useful to cast our minds back to the early days of the enterprise era.
In the beginning…
It used to be that customers bought on-premises software from blue-chip database and application vendors. These applications captured vast amounts of data, which was stored in a warehouse. When data from one system had to be made available in another, IT teams ran routines to extract, transform and load the data. User experience was an afterthought.
“User experience was an afterthought”
As computers became more sophisticated, IT teams realized they could drive more business outcomes. On-prem applications built for specific purposes proliferated, which made it more important than ever that these applications could exchange information on an on-going basis. IT teams responded with new concepts like Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to stitch different systems together.
This was the beginning of the Better Together era. The likes of Oracle, Microsoft, SAP and IBM made huge advances with their own ‘stack’. But as things usually worked better together within a stack, customers often found themselves buying bundle deals from a single vendor.
Then the cloud arrived and everything changed.
SaaS apps ride to the rescue
As the cloud rolled in, the on-prem giants found the ground shifting under their feet.
Customers realized that lock-ins generated by the incumbents had inhibited them from picking the best product for specific purposes. CIOs grew wary. Sensing an opportunity, smart entrepreneurs filled the void with cloud applications that did specific things very well.
“Smart entrepreneurs filled the void with cloud applications that did specific things very well”
Salesforce, Google, Workday, Box, and Dropbox were the new players. Their prices were competitive while the software was easier to use. It was also easier to buy.
But that had an unintended consequence.
The cloud let a thousand flowers bloom. As a result, an average enterprise today has several hundred cloud applications that are critical to getting work done. In a large enterprise, the Marketing department alone averages over 90 apps. That’s making it harder, not easier, to get work done.
The nature of work is to create, share, get feedback and make decisions. But as that work splinters across dozens of applications, crucial information is siloed and lost.
“That’s why integration has never been more important”
Ideas can’t be shared. Feedback can’t circulate. Decisions can’t be made. And that’s why integration has never been more important.
Other people have figured this out, too. Thousands of developers have set to work on bespoke integrations for the major platforms and service providers. Salesforce estimates that the integrations market is worth as much as $30 billion a year.
The consumer revolution
But there is another, less heralded, change sweeping the enterprise market. One that may be even more far-reaching than the development of the cloud.
Just as enterprise software was fragmenting into hundreds of constituent applications, consumer technology was heading the other way as mobile changed people’s expectations of technology.
“Today’s customers insist that the applications they use at work are as well-designed, easy to use and reliable as the ones they use at home”
Mobile developers put people at the center of everything they do. They put a premium on simplicity and beauty. They realized that how they used the limited pixels available to them was the difference between winning and losing in a world of ever decreasing attention.
Those expectations have now shifted to the enterprise. Today’s customers insist that the applications they use at work are as well-designed, easy to use and reliable as the ones they use at home.
Getting the message
With the rise of mobile has come new ways to communicate. We’re entering the age of messaging, as the likes of WhatsApp, Line, WeChat and Facebook Messenger become our go-to channels for communicating with the people closest to us.
Thanks to videos, stickers, and GIFs, chat apps have made conversations instant, visual and fun. By contrast, long-form mediums like email have started to feel old-fashioned. Messaging is also at the cutting edge of AI advances. Think of the way bots are enabling new types of conversations, interfaces and consumer experiences.
“Consumers brought these expectations of fast, fluid conversations to the workplace”
Consumers brought these expectations of fast, fluid conversations to the workplace. Conventional enterprise chat apps got a makeover. Then came bots and integrations to help people find information securely, when needed and with context.
We’re only just beginning to understand the consequences of this shift – but the changes will be massive. Work used to be about structured communications. Now it’s becoming unstructured and ad-hoc. It used to be that value came from long-form, persistent information sharing (from memos to meetings). Now it’s evolving to short-form, transient conversations with decisions being made ‘in-line’ where the information is available.
“Work used to be about structured communications. Now it’s becoming unstructured and ad-hoc”
Email may have been the first step on this road. But the tools we have today are infinitely better adapted.
So there are three fundamental forces at play. Enterprise companies are using hundreds of best of breed SaaS apps. Mobile experiences are reshaping people’s expectations of enterprise software. While the rise of messaging is changing how we communicate with each other.
The question is: How do you make sure that all this information living in multiple applications inside a company can be surfaced in conversations – so that people can work together and communicate in ways that meet (or even exceed) their expectations?
The answer lies in enabling key business applications to work better together in a fluid, integrated mobile experience. But what does that actually look like?
And that’s a question we explore in part 2 of this post. Take a look.