Blog: Chris Brook-CarterTech advances make work a home from home

Chris Brook-Carter | 28 September 2011

Launch shows for new software applications into the food and drinks industry are, I must admit, not a regular entry in my diary.

However, a number of factors combined to make a visit on Monday to see the US-based group Infor unveil its latest ERP (enterprise resource planning) product an intriguing use of time.

The first is the continued economic woe that characterises the climate most companies are operating in. Cost-cutting and efficiencies are at the heart of initiatives to raise the bottom line and the more you speak to companies about these programmes, the more you'll hear about efforts to install new systems in the search for a competitive edge. The second was that a long-term partner of just-food, Lawson, had recently been acquired by Infor, and this was the first chance to see where this newly-enlarged group was heading.

Finally, I must admit to a certain geekish fascination with digital information platforms, something, I hope you'll agree, sits comfortably with my position as publisher of a food information and intelligence service.

A select group of potential customers from across the food and drinks industry heard much about the speed and flexibility of the new product from presentations by Duncan Angove, Infor's president for products and support and Massimo Copoccia, its senior director for product management. Undoubtedly, some of the technicalities were above my pay grade. But, what struck me most were the efforts made by the company to deliver a user experience akin to consumer applications such as Twitter and Facebook on a B2B platform.

It is symptomatic of the way technology in business is changing. Usability has been a low priority for years in software systems and digital tools at work. As long as the data, information or end result stood up, the way in which it was delivered was secondary. As long as it was functional, it was good enough.

But the extent to which Facebook and its ilk have pervaded almost every aspect of our lives and the premium placed on the user experience by tools such as the i-Pad have changed the way we view technology, even in the workplace.

"Enterprise software users want to work the way they live," said Angove. "They can see what's going on in the consumer world, where social media, collaboration and mobile devices combined with beautiful design, ready-to-use applications and agile technology have substantially improved the speed, value and productivity of the consumer experience. With Infor10, we are delivering a consumer-grade user experience that begins with a beautiful user interface."

Speed of information pertinent to the user, Twitter-style newsfeeds from across the organisation and the ability to monitor what is said about your brand on the world's social networks were just three of the examples of applications mentioned in Angove's presentation.

None of these are revolutionary to any regular user of digital technology at home, but they are indicative of a sea change of expectation of what technology should deliver at work. Functional is no longer good enough.


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