Top 3 reasons wearables will change the way you use ERP

Profile picture for user kroberts By Kevin Roberts June 2, 2015
Whether you buy a smartwatch or not, wearables will change the way you use ERP. Kevin Roberts of explains the top 3 reasons why

Businessman in gray suit viewing data concept on wrist wearable © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia
The recent Apple Watch launch resulted in a reported 2.3 million eager fans signing up for pre-orders. Not to be outdone, Google is rolling out the next version of its wearable operating system with new tools for early adopter Android Wear users to play with on their own choice of shiny watch.

Reaction from press, analysts and the Twitterverse however has been mixed. It has ranged from enthusiastic welcome to the dawn of a new platform, all the way to deep skepticism of a gimmick that we could well do without.

Regardless of which camp you are in, it’s clear there has been a huge amount of design and development effort invested in these devices. It’s all focused on how best to provide useful and timely information while avoiding constant interruption. In a business context that would seem something much needed at the moment. We face an era of rapidly changing market conditions, ever increasing customer expectations and news feeds coming at us from all directions. It would be great if our business apps were also able to let us know when something is important and provide concise relevant information to help us decide if action needs to be taken.

Here’s some of the ways a new wave of business apps are taking best practices in smartwatch design that could change the way you get work done in the future – whether it’s on your laptop, your tablet, your phone or indeed your $10,000 gold edition watch.

#1 Notifications get your attention, not your inbox

watch apple
For decades the primary information feed in your business was your inbox but for many that method is terminally ill or just plain broken.  As a feed of information e-mail is coming a distant second to other social feeds because it’s so hard to see the wood for the trees. Whether it’s unsolicited spam, a multitude of “cc the world just in case” irrelevant noise or it’s simply too time consuming to work your way through a convoluted email chain e-mail, it’s no surprise to see the rise of the “I’ve just sent you an email - can you respond” text when someone really does need an answer.

Social feeds such as Facebook and Twitter in your personal life and Chatter in your business life use notifications to cut through the noise to let you know when something is worth looking at. Crucially, notifications quickly take you to the relevant event, photo or business transaction so you know instantly the context of what’s just been brought to your attention.

A common objection from smartwatch naysayers is the last thing they want is to get nudged every time they get a new email. I couldn’t agree more – notification of email is one the first things most people turn off on a wearable device. However, just as you appreciate a watch notification that you’ve just been tagged in a family photo or when your latest insightful observation has been retweeted, effective use of notifications in a business context means you could also get a polite nudge for events such as:

  • A plea for help when someone @mentions you regarding a customer support issue
  • A request for approval of an exceptional business expense
  • A key deal has been won or lost
  • A support case has been escalated to business critical for a major customer

#2 “Getting stuff done” with actions

Apple watch
Getting notified is one thing but what about taking action once you’ve determined that yes, you do need to step in now rather than later? Developers for smartwatch apps don’t have the screen real estate to provide the user with all potential actions. They need to think carefully about the two or three most common responses that can be selected with a simple swipe action.  Example actions could be simply selecting to retweet or like a friend's post, perhaps providing a short list of a canned responses to choose from. Actions can also be more complex such as parsing out possible answers based on the question being asked in a text message.

Actions in business apps require developers to think about what are the most likely responses in a process and provide intelligent data driven options. ERP apps have tended to provide an overwhelming number of options covering every possible eventuality but have provided little guidance on recommended actions. Enterprise applications should take a leaf out of the wearables design book. Intelligent suggestion of most likely actions can be very powerful and has the potential to transform back office apps into systems that truly aid decision making.

Unlike wearable apps for personal use, in a business context actions taken by a simple swipe could be part of complex multi-step processes spanning multiple departments and involving many people.  Performing mobilized actions directly from a notification feed (as seen in this video) not only drives ease of use for the individual but could also be preventing hold-ups across the business and avoiding annoying delays for customers.

For example when a customer gives the green light on a new project, a single action to update the project status could trigger the following activities:

  • turning on project billing in finance
  • scheduling assignments for the service delivery team
  • notifications to the relevant project manager and product manager
  • creation of follow-up reminders for the support team

#3 Health monitoring could make sense for your business

Salesforce-Apple Watch-650-80
Early Apple Watch reviews cite health and exercise tracking apps as being the most popular and beneficial for personal use.  So if there’s a role for personal health monitoring, based on achievement of milestones and warnings when thresholds are not met, then perhaps there are also benefits to be found in monitoring the health of your business using similar techniques.

ERP apps have relied on users routinely running reports or performing a daily review of dashboards to keep an eye on day-to-day business health. Watch-based health monitoring turns that around and asks the wearer to define your thresholds and targets and then lets you know when they are achieved or gives you a nudge if they’ve dropped outside an acceptable range. Modern business apps offering a similar monitoring capability can minimize that day-to-day checking activity and instead jump in to alert you when things may be going off track. Examples of metrics business health monitoring might be keeping an eye could be:

  • Cash balances dipping below upcoming payment commitments
  • Outstanding balance on key accounts exceeding agreed levels
  • Excessive number of customer support issues raised
  • Time-off requests for holiday period impact agreed staffing levels

Wearables point the way to systems of the future

So whether you think wearables are indeed the dawn of a new age or you are in the “unnecessary gimmick” camp, we are seeing business apps take note of how these new devices are changing the way people interact with technology.

These three trends show the great potential here to transform old style systems of record into next generation systems in terms of ease of use and responsiveness as well as providing guidance, advice and early warning systems.

Image credits: Businessman viewing data on wrist wearable © Sergey Nivens - Fotolia; iWatch product shots by Apple.