Enterprise Apps: Transforming Information into Behavior
As businesses become more distributed, the challenge of keeping everyone in the business connected becomes more difficult. Enterprise apps and social media certainly help, but many people have the sense that something is missing, and it's all somewhat unsatisfying. It's not the quantity of interactions and there's more than enough tweeting, texting, and Facebook updates, so what's the gap? Before the wild growth of the mobile enterprise and acceptance of a workforce that is not co-located, companies would spread their business knowledge through classes, apprenticeships, and other face-to-face techniques. But as employees became more distributed, the costs of bringing them together for training and knowledge transfer grew. With computing technology easily available, the answer seemed obvious: build enterprise mobile apps to hold the corporate information and everyone will have access no matter where they are. Problem solved. Except that step set the problem in motion. It's not that knowledge is wrong or isn't comprehensive, and it's not that social media or other computerized access to the information is inherently bad. The problem is most people do not learn that way. What was lost are the personal and interpersonal interactions at the root of how people learn, reinforce, and master information. There's a great book that explores these issues in depth, The Social Life of Information [Seely Brown and Duguid; 2000], full of insightful examples of how the social context of learning is critical to successful learning. The point is: there are ways to recapture that optimum knowledge transfer by combining corporate knowledge, social media, and enterprise apps in a way that recreates the context and behaviors of traditional learning. Successful integration of knowledge and behavior is a challenging task, but let's consider some of the pieces of the solution. Human knowledge is not rigorous, top down, and dry. Your knowledge base must provide the interconnections between sometimes disparate topics to suit how people will really think and explore information. Social media enables interactions between people and people, people and content, and connects people with activities. Each type of interaction is important, and integrating them together is crucial. Which brings us directly to enterprise apps -- the corporate outpost in your employee's hands. Enterprise apps have the capability to combine different pieces of information and behavior in a way that helps each employee learn and interact – in their own way. It may be connecting the act of reading a reference manual to the suggestion of a local class. It may be connecting a business practice with how another company solves the same problem. It may be connecting one employee with others who pursued similar topics – so they can get together in person. Sometimes, there is no substitute for interpersonal interactions. Mobile application management (MAM®) makes it easy to extend intranets and other corporate resources out to employees in a mobile context. As your organization improves its knowledge practices, they can be immediately accessible to all employees, wherever they might be. Your employees will feel more fulfilled, and your business can be more successful.