A fortnight has passed by since I captured my thoughts around how the nexus of disruptive forces (Cloud, Mobile, Social, IoT) demands new-age BPM thinking. In a section of that blog, I had mentioned that BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and COPE (Corporate Owned, Personally Enabled) are forces that enterprises are coming to terms with. From the employer’s perspective, these measures are intended to optimize the experience for each employee, deliver the service and support to meet their unique needs, and maximize their contributions to the business. From an employee perspective, there is still a shortfall in BYOD – they need to lug these portable devices wherever they go. How easy would it be if one need not worry about carrying devices around but still get the job done on the move? Enter Wearables!!
In simple terms, wearables are computer-powered devices or equipment that can be worn, including clothing, watches, eyewear etc.
The wearables space is still in its early evolution phases and most vendors are in an exploratory mode. This has led to a huge influx of different devices serving varying needs. IDC, in its recent market analysis (Worldwide Wearable Computing Device 2014–2018 Forecast and Analysis), has broadly classified wearables into 3 categories – Complex Accessories, Smart Accessories and Smart Wearables.
The same analysis notes that “…wearables took a big step in 2013, reaching a total of 6.2 million units shipped, marking a 317.1% increase from the 1.5 million units shipped in 2012. Driving volumes higher was a combination of a warming end-user reception to complex accessories and the introduction of multiple smart accessories. Smart wearables, meanwhile, have yet to reach larger volumes.”
Wearables in the Enterprise
With this growing trend, how far are we before these devices enter our business environment? It’s not a question of “if” but “when” will wearables extend into the enterprise. Enterprises stand to benefit from the wearable story, if they think through this diligently and make smart choices that deliver an improved employee and customer experience. As things stand today, I observe that there are 3 broad use cases for wearables in enterprises:
Providing employees with a hands-free operations will definitely add the productivity of the individual. How many times have there been instances when you have been in your favorite supermarket/electronic store feeling lost because of the combined lack of information displayed on shelf labels and limited knowledge of the salesmen around. A dissatisfied customer, a potential sale lost and, biggest of all, a customer delight opportunity lost – primarily because the salesman did not have the right levels of knowledge required to enable that sale. It is situations like these where it helps to have knowledge at the fingertips that businesses would want to drive in wearables. By strapping one of these devices on your limbs, you literally have the information at your fingertips.
Enhanced Customer Experience
Innovative thinking brings wearables and your customers together and driving more value into the relationship. While we have seen what mobile apps have done to customer experience and it is known that these apps can be made compatible to the smart watches, this use case goes beyond this scenario. Insurance companies are leveraging wearables to drive a more objective and individual assessment of insurance premiums, and making their customers aware of how they are performing on the health radar. Strap one of those Fit Bits around the wrist and each step you take from there on is helping you drive your insurance premiums lower. Some devices can even track your blood pressure and blood sugar levels and digitize this information. The insurance firm benefits from the close track it can keep on the health of its customers and provide a personalized experience.
Another smart implementation of wearables was Disneyland’s introduction of the MagicBand device that ties into a new service allowing theme park visitors to make purchases and reserve experiences.
WYOD (Wear Your Own Device)
An employee with a wearable computing device of their choice – sounds too distant? Businesses have taken a relatively long time in devising their BYOD strategies and transitioning into this new reality. If the influx of smartphones made them sit up and take note, wearables will be the next wave and businesses have to think of how they will evolve their WYOD strategies. The good news is that substantial mind-shifts have already happened during the implementation of their BYOD strategies and the resistance this time around will be less. However, the challenges of wearables entering the workspace will also unravel as this space matures, and businesses will have to be nimble-footed to generate value in that context. Just as it was in the case of smartphones entering work environments, security concerns will be center stage with wearables – perhaps, a few levels higher. Having said that, wearables will be an imperative and businesses should adopt and leverage rather than resist and lose out.
Impact on Business Processes
With such an advent of these wearables in the enterprises, there is bound to be an impact on business operations. From the retail floor to the insurance firm to the amusement park, the business processes will soon shape around these wearables. Call to action for BPM practitioners –
Develop Business Processes considering the wearable UI
The marquee BPM tools in the market have evolved in the context of the mobile wave. Traditionally, the business user has participated in the process through a User Interface that is rendered to him on his screen. Today, the BPM tools can additionally deliver this UI on the mobile/tablet screens, either through “responsive web” or a mobile app. With wearables, this UI design has to take the next leap – render the screens on the wearable screens and perhaps, include enhanced speech recognition! The need is to facilitate process execution by the business user through their device of choice – the wearable.
Optimize processes around Wearables
Business Process Optimization could possibly be taken to the next level if we leverage these devices as an effective aid in process execution. If a process participant is not bound to his desk or a handheld device, and is still able to carry out his task while on the move – this can lead to quicker response times. It requires some innovative design thinking by BPM practitioners to identify the “fit-for-wearables” scenarios that will enable clients see the value that they always long for. Businesses will be open to innovations in technology as long as we can demonstrate the value of leveraging them within their business processes. As an example, Virgin Atlantic has already made an early-adopter move and leveraged Google Glass to deliver a personalized check-in experience for its Upper Class passengers at Heathrow’s T3 terminal. Enterprises are in experimental mode and some of these early adoptions may not take-off smoothly.
The wearables space is evolving and maturing with each passing day. Technology firms and analysts are jumping on the bandwagon because they realize that the space has huge potential. There will soon be a consolidation based on market feedback and this should provide the much needed direction to the wearables market. There will be challenges and apprehensions around security with wearables entering the business environment but I am sure as this space evolves, those will be addressed as well. What is important is that a level of maturity is reached – both in terms of the device functionalities and enterprises evolving their strategies around these wearables. As BPM practitioners, do keep a close eye on this evolution and keep your “smarter thinking” hats on!