The number of smartphone users worldwide today surpasses 3 billion and is forecasted to further grow by several hundred million in the next few years. According to Statista*, China, India and the United States are the countries with the highest number of smartphone users, with each country easily surpassing the 100 million mark. That means most people are using their phones to do a range of activities every day. We are doing everything from ordering food to finding jobs to even consulting doctors on the mobile phone today. The average time a user spends on their mobile phone has gone up to almost 4 hours per day. It is an omnipresent device and it is not just the millennials who are hooked to their mobile phones. The older generations are also spending a significant amount of time on their mobile phones. Mobile–first approach, has thus become a great strategy to employ for digital products.
At SAP SuccessFactors, we are in the domain of Human Experience Management (HXM) that focusses on providing solutions for the Hire to Retire journey of employees in an organisation. So, the big question for our business is, are employees as enthusiastic about using their mobile phones for their work-related tasks? Through numerous research studies, we have observed that the average desk employee still prefers his/her laptop for completing tasks. And this led us to the topic of understanding mobile usage in the organisational context better. There are several reasons why employees are still not using their mobile as a preferred device in the workplace. The reasons range from device capabilities like storage, screen real-estate to contextual factors like laptop already being a preferred device for heavy softwares that they may be using for work. A global research was initiated by SAP SuccessFactors UX Research team in a bid to understand the factors influencing mobile usage in the workplace better.
This study was undertaken to draw insights and uncover themes that could potentially inform product development of mobile designs across pillars at SuccessFactors. One of the aspects we discovered was that mobile is used as an in-between device i.e., most of the users were using it as they were moving between meetings or during commuting. Basically, they were away from their desks and did not have focussed attention. This helped us understand that for this reason, they expected a low cognitive load of the tasks on the mobile. In cognitive psychology, cognitive load refers to the mental effort taken to complete a task.
There is also a certain level of complexity to the organisational tasks whether it is filling out an appraisal form or filling out an income tax declaration. Therefore, by nature these tasks have a higher cognitive load. Unless these processes are simplified and adapted to the mobile device, it will be difficult for the user to accomplish these tasks on the mobile with the same ease. Laptops/Desktops are suitable as a device for high cognitive load tasks. They offer a larger screen, the ability to toggle tabs, and a typing keyboard that can enable complex and mentally demanding tasks. However, the scenario of usage on mobile is entirely different. The users are usually trying to accomplish a task while being on the move and have limited attention span. The nature of the mobile device i.e., smaller screen real estate and low storage also impacts the experience. This instinctively makes the user want to do quick actions on mobile like checking their payslip or applying for leave. In the case of mobile, although we have challenges like small screen real estate, there are also in-built capabilities like location, camera, Biometrics, RFID readers. These capabilities can be maximised as we bring out the next generation of products. The mobile experience can no longer be an after-thought or a passive transfer of the web experience. There is a need to adapt processes to mobile, keeping in mind the user’s needs, environment of usage and expectations.
All users are not the same. The assumption that people use their organisational portal only for only transactions seems to be evolving. We observed that there are also users who come to the system to wander and see what it offers them. They are ideally the personas who are looking for highly personalised and curated content relevant to them. There has been a shift in HR technology from the mindset of Human Capital Management to Human Experience Management. As we navigate this shift, we have to design experiences that enable not just transactions but also address the user’s need to engage and interact meaningfully with the system.
We live in times of unprecedented technology advancements which demand our products to be ahead of the innovation curve. Therefore, we need to approach our product innovation in a pro-active manner and adapt to the changing requirements of both the market and the user. As Charles Darwin famously quoted in his book The Origin of the Species, “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment. To paraphrase him, it is the product that constantly adapts to the changing environment, that continues to stay relevant and useful to the customer. Therefore, as we move ahead in HXM journey, we continue to make efforts to understand our users and their context better to stay relevant for them.
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– Shweta Roy Chowdhury & Malika Mantri
SAP SuccessFactors UX Research