What do Colors represent?

We have got crowded_crayon_colorsan opportunity to work with one of the global Consulting companies in providing our Employee Service Platform to deliver their services to their end Customer. This being a Big4 and a great opportunity, things have been boiling in my head for most part of the Week. After finishing up the NHRD Showcase event yesterday and all the associated twitterati, I started work on the PPT – the grand new “Unified Immersion Assessment Platform”.

As is my habit for the last 16+ years, I had pained my better half for most of the morning, once in 10 min frequency, to check the slides I was working on and give me instant feedback.  Since she had to go out to run errands, I had been working on the slides in a boxed up mode all by myself.

That’s when my 12-year old daughter walked into the hall – with an intension to get something to snack on. And to get out of my boxy-feeling, I pulled her into the conversion.

Me – Anjali, please come and check this ppt slide if it makes sense.

A – Dad, it doesn’t make any sense to me.

Me – <<grrr> You don’t have to understand it, but please tell me if it looks easy to read?

A – Why are boxes of different shape? Why some of them have different colors and some others have the same colors? What are those 3 circles mean in that box? Its confusing Dad; its not clear at all.

Me – << I gave her explanation about the grand “Unified Immersive Assessment Platform”  >>

Anjali – I don’t like circles, and please change all those colors to be same pattern.

Me – Then I will not have enough colors to use to tell my story without visual confusion.

Anjali – Why are you not using violet in this slide? (violet being her favorite color)

Me – But Anjali Violet doesn’t represent what I want to communicate.

Anjali – Dad, why should violet represent what you want to communicate? Please treat colors as independent and they represent themselves. If do that then your slide makes perfect sense to me. <pause> Enough I need to get back to my show on the net .

And she walks out and I was ready to pull my hair out. But Violet is on the slide.

Enterprise Tool Selection – Changing Players

Enterprise technology landscape is changing and changing very fast. The ERP/tool buying process has matured over the years, and Organizations have applied same processes and measures to select all tools in an uniform way. This worked in the last decade or so as the overall architecture and output experience of all tools were in the same ballpark range.

This may still continue for backend ERPs like Finance, but they will undergo significant change in HR/Employee related Enterprise technology tools.

Each Employee in his/her role as an “Employee” has very different expectation (ease of access, experience, contextual collaboration, etc) compared what some of the same Employees performing the “Admin” roles expect from the Enterprise software – how easy it is to manage exceptions, MIS reports, reconciliation, etc.

The reality is that at all stages of the Enterprise Technology tool selection – for the demo, feature comparison discussion, shortlisting, influencing commercial discussion – mostly these “Admin” users are there and drive the discussion completely based on their needs.

Its not till the later in life cycle when  “rubber hits the road” that the regular users get to see the system and complain how inconvenient the experience is while using the tool for everyday transactions. If the functionality and experience are good – its very good for Employees and the Enterprise. If not good, its a wasted investment and a wasted opportunity to create engaging touch point for Employees in an Organization.

This is true for almost all areas of Enterprise Operations – Recruit, HR, Travel, Finance, CRM, Service Desk, etc. A few tools like Finance ERPs may not be that impacted by the “Employee Experience” yardstick as  all those users will be “Admin”s. But others tools are definitely to be measured with this new yardstick more and more going forward.

The solution providers should apply their best “Design Thinking” hats to look at the best possible holistic Experience to be delivered to Employees with in an Enterprise. Only those products will successfully enter into the FutureOfWork world filled with Millennials.

And this “Design Thinking” is driving us at Employee Experts re-defining Enterprise operations process/technology architecture centered on Employee and Employee Experience.

Enterprise Technology – Beginnings and Relevance

I have been doing it for more than 22years now – consulting, designing, building, re-engineering, testing, maintaining and everything else in the Enterprise software space. As part of this journey, I got opportunities to work for some great global Organisations and some not so great ones. I have enjoyed the benefits of fast changing technology since early 90’s and seen the way the workplace has changed.

Two things to highlight –

  1. There is not much Process Re-architecture over the decades within the Enterprise.
  2. As a natural extension, all Enterprise technology innovations/adoptions have been incremental.

Here I am talking about the automation focusing on Employee Operations. And not Communications; Email in the early part of 1990’s and Mobile/Socials tools in 2010’s have been a big boost to communication processes in general.

Let’s look at the Enterprise technology context in the early 1980’s when the first seeds of automation started.

  • The personal computers were costly and complex
  • Only 1 or 2 people in each Departments had access to them
  • These “Admin” users were the super talented early digital adopters

Old PC Imageold-pc2 old PC

The need and focus of early stage automation was to improve the quality and speed of critical resources in a department.  Most Business processes were re-drawn to go through these “Computers” and “Admins”.

As the time passed – there were more “Admin” people with Computers in the Organizations and more point solutions were identified and built. And in parallel, the original point solutions evolved to include some of the peripheral tasks into the original scope.

The result of these initial steps were – Departmental or Functional focused ERPs, the ones we see today in the Enterprise technology space – HR ERP, Finance ERP, Sales CRM, Travel ERP and a host of other ERPs sprang up in the Enterprise space. Please note – these were all focused on specific functions within departments to be used mainly by the Admin users.

The database structures, technology architecture, workflow design, notification engine, User Interface, MIS reports and everything else that goes into a product was done with the confined scope of “Admin” users of a Department.

When Employee Self Service, Manager Self Service, Performance management and a few other Employee driven automation needs came up, the old/new vendors leveraged the same architectural aspects to extend the new functions – but again specific to one purpose.

In the last 2 years or so, the context of Enterprise Technology is changing – its purpose, relevance and type of users.

  • almost every Employee has a Computer and also a more advanced and powerful personal device which he/she uses more often and is more comfortable with.
  • From an overall business perspective, involvement of all the stakeholders is necessary to achieve faster communication and decision making
  • Effective collaboration needs boundary-less connections – cross functional AND/OR cross Organizational
  • Changing workforce needs easy access with engaging User Interface across all devices, particularly personal ones

smartphone-3 smartphone-2 Smartphone-1

Even with these big changes that are happening in the consumer technology world, the Enterprise technology vendors and the decision makers within the Organizations tend to look at incremental innovation based on a different set of parameters – to protect the investments, to manage the existing IT eco system, ability to handle the quantum of change from a support perspective – and continue to add more and more departmental focused (legacy architecture) ERPs with incremental UI changes and desperately hope that they will work in the current context.

But the big QUESTION is – will the legacy architected Departmental focused, Process oriented ERPs (even with the new UI) meet the EXPECTATIONS and NEEDS of the current workforce?

Has the time come to throw away the legacy architectures and reimagine the Enterprise Technology framework centered on Employee? We surely think so.