Analytics will drive the business case for wearables

SUMMARY:

Teaming the analytics power of the cloud with smart, connected devices is the way to unlock the business case for wearables, writes Unit4’s Ryan Gloeckler

Woman holding wearable gadget © Milles Studio – Fotolia.comWe’re at a huge juncture in the way enterprise IT systems are built, sold and used, and much of that focus is on analytics and creating services based on insights from real-time data. Analytics has to be at the heart of successful wearables.

ERP systems for example, are moving from being purely transaction processing engines to becoming people-centric applications for organization-wide collaboration – what we call ‘Systems of Engagement’. Wearables is a natural extension of a system that has proven itself critical in business as a system of record and now is able to exploit the power of social, mobile, analytic and cloud technologies to become a system of engagement.

Making wearables fit for purpose

After Google Glass’s frosty welcome Apple’s Watch has generated a lot of positive attention towards wearables. IDC predicts 112 million wearable devices in just three years’ time and while most people are quite familiar with wearables such as Apple Watch, Samsung Gear, Fitbit, Pebble, etc., it’s still unclear where the value will be for enterprise.

At a time when the services sector is underpinning economic growth globally and organizations are jostling to create new service models, wearables offer huge potential, especially in industries that rely on access to real-time data.

Connectivity and security are vital considerations that organizations should be thinking about now. Many lessons have been learned from the rapid adoption of Apple’s iPhone into the workplace and the trend for BYOD. Organizations understand better than ever that there’s no excuse for complacency when it comes to new technologies. Big hitters like Apple and Google are heavily promoting this technology in the expectation that business adoption is imminent.

Selling ‘individual’ experiences

Apple Watch
Apple Watch

Things get really interesting when we start to think of wearables as enablers of improved customer experiences. As respected industry analyst R Ray Wang often states, many of the most successful companies aren’t selling individual products or services; they are selling experiences. Wearables allow the experience to become even more individual and personal. They add to the volume of useful information that feeds into predictive analysis to provide proactive services and suggestions personalized to the user’s habits and interests.

One of the best examples I’ve seen in today’s business world is by one of the leading providers of experiences – Disney.  My Disney Experience combines, among many other things, a web experience for pre-planning one’s vacation with personalized wearable smart bracelets called MagicBands. The MagicBands eliminate the need to carry a card or tether a badge around your neck.

As you move through your vacation experience the MagicBand is used to enable a great customer experience. Arrive at the resort and unlock your pre-confirmed hotel room with the MagicBand. Get greeted by name when arriving for dinner reservations and, if you have no desire to change your pre-planned menu choices, simply grab a GPS enabled flower, seat yourself at any open table of your liking and your food arrives shortly thereafter. Imagine the joy of a child (and parent) whose favorite character wished him a personal happy birthday, without any pre-arrangement. Use the band to pay for food and goods anywhere in the park, with a PIN required for transactions over a preset level.

Enterprise use cases

The enterprise software market is going through immense change to meet the demands of a digital native workforce and increasingly complex service-focused business models. To be successful, software has to be simpler to use, delivering great user experience and supporting new digital service offerings that add value to customers.

At Unit4, we are currently working with beta versions of an employee-centric app for the Apple Watch that allows the user to quickly and simply update their availability status. For example, they’ll be able to show if they’re running late for a meeting or customer visit, or will be absent for the remainder of the day. Back-end systems (absence/timesheets, people planner, calendars and communities) are updated automatically with this information. It will enable employees to easily view balances like overtime and remaining holiday entitlement, view payslips and receive notifications and alerts directly on the Watch.

The Disney example shows how even using simple technology that has been in existence for years can provide highly personalized experiences. While very few of us are in the business of running theme parks, there are many similarities with cities (Disneyworld is about the same size as San Francisco!). No doubt many other businesses will find scenarios where wearables devices can become part of an amazing customer experience, and enterprise systems will drive what’s possible around core business functions and experiences like these.

Image credits Woman holding wearable gadget © Milles Studio – Fotolia.com. Apple Watch by Apple.