Skip to Content
Author's profile photo Milja Gillespie

What’s the difference between a consumer and an employee? Notes from SXSW.

Attending SXSW was an experience like none I have ever had working in the enterprise software space. It was great to represent SAP and be a part of the energy and excitement of the conference. While I was only there for two days of the two week-long event, those 48 hours were certainly memorable.


Many people say that Austin isn’t like the rest of Texas; I agree the vibe was very different. The attendees of the SXSW Interactive conference were energized and eclectic, and there wasn’t a suit in sight. SAP was attending the event to speak on a panel discussion titled “Enterprise Invades the Apps Playground”. I was also lucky enough to also be able to catch an SXSW Film premiere, sneak a celebrity sighting, and enjoy a true Texas experience – all in the same day.


I’ll start my recap with the takeaways from the panel session. SAP’s Matt Carrier was joined by Eric Lai of Avaya, John Arrow of Mutual Mobile and TechCrunch journalist Alex Williams. I wanted to make the mobile session highly engaging, so I looked up the best audience interaction tools and selected a tool called SlideKlowd to make the session fun.


SXSW is known as a consumer technology event, so the angle for our session was a bit unique around the uptake of mobile apps in the enterprise. We explored the topic from several angles – mobile apps themselves, employee demands for apps, and even the use of app stores. One significant takeaway for me is reflected in the title of this blog – What’s the difference between a consumer and an employee? The answer according to our panelists is “Nothing!”  Whether you are building apps for consumers or for your employees you need to give them the same user experience. But beauty has to be more than skin deep. Mutual Mobile’s CEO John Arrow made a great point: design isn’t a veneer. It really matters how the app works. Something may look pretty, but it has to improve the way an employee gets their job done. The net of it? Functionality and user experience are the two core elements that will drive successful mobile adoption.


As I mentioned, as part of the session, we used a mobile app to engage with the audience. Of the 300+ people in the room, it was awesome that over 100 of them logged in to the system. For perspective, our survey showed that the seats were mostly filled by people looking to adopt mobile within their companies and some building apps for enterprises. We thought it would be interesting to see what mobile operating systems people thought were prominent in the enterprise. Our audience had an interesting perspective: about 55% agreed that iOS is dominant and the other 45% thought that a combined BlackBerry, Android and “other” were used heavily by business.


SAP and Mutual Mobile agreed that iOS is consistently seen as the dominant operating system that customers of both companies are building apps for today. Being a consumer-oriented event, we took a look at a few SAP consumer apps for iOS and Android that are making waves with our customer base. Matt Carrier talked about the SAP Fan Experience app (very cool way to engage with sports fans) and a Precision Marketing app that in Matt’s words “can help me find the quickest way from the beer to the bread” in the grocery store to make the insufferable task of shopping a little less painful. These are two of my own favourite apps – the likes of which I’m sure you’d find very cool too.


We also enjoyed a look into the future of mobile. Mutual Mobile’s John Arrow was performing a social experiment and wearing fake Google Glass goggles to gauge the reaction he got from people on the street. What was the coolest app our panelists could think of for Google Glass? An augmented reality overlay to their mountain bike trails or ski trail routes… The general consensus is that the future is cool!


The panel session was a great experience. If you were in the room, I’d love to hear your feedback and if you missed it, you can download the slides. As for the rest of my time at SXSW, it was enough of an experience to make me want to go back to Austin next year and stay a bit longer. All I can say for now is that the evening ended at a local country western pub, known for its unique variation on Bingo, that I am sure could only exist in Texas. But that’s another story…

Assigned Tags

      1 Comment
      You must be Logged on to comment or reply to a post.
      Author's profile photo Ian Thain
      Ian Thain

      I have been saying for the last few years that Enterprise Mobile Apps must have at least the same User Experience that the 'Prosumer' expects from Consumer Mobile Apps!

      They must follow the ABC...

      Amazing, Beautiful & Compelling!

      This can all be achieved with a good Team within an internal Mobile Innovation Council using Design Thinking!

      Check out