Special Feature
Part of a ZDNet Special Feature: How UX is Transforming Enterprise Software

Five technologies that are changing the face of enterprise UX

Here are five trends that will set the bar for how business users interact with technology in order to get work done.

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Image: iStock

The consumerization of IT is an ongoing trend: people grow accustomed to the way that something works in their personal lives, and then wonder why it doesn't also function that way at work.

A recent consumer tech trend to impact enterprise IT is social media: Facebook and Twitter, in one form or another, have become part of the business landscape, and now enterprise social networks are widespread.

But social media is no longer new, which inevitably means there's a new set of tech trends waiting to make their mark on the enterprise.

Here are five technologies that are changing the face of the enterprise user experience.

Wearables

Max Dufour, partner at Harmeda, and Charlene Li, founder and CEO of Altimeter Group, both highlight the potential of wearables to perform tasks like meeting notifications, and even give directions to the meeting room.

"Most users look up directions, print meeting invites and end up being delayed, not knowing where a room was. It becomes even more challenging when visiting a new office. All the pieces of paper which can be discarded at the end of the day call for a digital solution," says Dufour.

Li notes how, at the moment, many wearables are purpose-driven.

"The whole idea of wearables and the IoT is that they have a very specific purpose, and right now so many of the enterprise applications are multipurpose, focused on the things that people are doing."

The flip side to receiving information from wearable device is putting information back into it. Getting business cards entered into a CRM, for example, is still a huge challenge, says Li.

Internet of Things

There's a high degree of overlap between wearables and the Internet of Things (IoT) because both are heavily dependent on sensors.

"Using beacons and sensors that trigger content on phones can be very useful when navigating or managing large office buildings or datacenters," says Dufour. "Over time it is also an expectation from users to have the data come to them in a summarized and actionable format, rather than fetching the information manually."

But, says Li, as with wearables there must also be a way to collect and then integrate data back into systems -- not just surface data.

Li also notes that the user experience for IoT systems is very limited -- in part because so many devices are purpose-driven, as previously mentioned.

Mobile

Mobile is the oldest technology in this collection of trends. Devices like tablets and smartphones are already commonplace in the enterprise, whether it's a company giving employees iPhones as work phones, or using tablets to digitize some part of the supply chain.

Going forward, employees might reason that, if they can get a phone notification that someone liked a tweet, they should also know whether a vital piece of machinery is running outside of a certain threshold. Or that, if they can pull up someone's Facebook profile, they should also be able to access business-related information about a contact, wherever they happen to be.

Augmented reality

Augmented reality (AR) adds a layer of information onto the world as we experience it. On the consumer side, AR could mean looking at a restaurant and pulling in an overlay of Yelp! reviews, while in the enterprise it could deliver information about who you're meeting with, or provide a means of presenting complex data that might otherwise be difficult to handle on a regular 2D screen.

"In a 3D environment it becomes much easier to show how a change propagates through a non-relational database, or how an entire website is organized," says Dufour.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality (VR) in business is developing alongside gaming and entertainment, with companies using it for product demos, marketing experiences, and more. "We already have the computing power, software and business needs to justify further forays in that space," says Dufour.

Some future VR use cases are beginning to emerge There is talk about how it might be easier to create 3D models in a virtual 3D space -- using an application like Google's Tilt Brush, for example, which lets you select different brushes and stamps, and paint (or sculpt, really) in 3D space.

In February, Unreal Engine, which is a collection of tools for making games, visualizations, and simulations, demoed an addition to its Unreal Editor that would allow for making VR inside VR. Perhaps one day it will be standard practice for those who create 3D visualisations to make them in VR.

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