insurance company. “There were many, many fields and pages and
pages of content on each product. The salespeople were strug-
gling to find the right types of data and there was no way to do an
advanced search. There was also no way to do a what-if scenario —
you’d have to do it offline with a spreadsheet-based application.”
Around the same time, a second insurance company serving the
same market also decided to launch an app for its field reps. This
time, there was no legacy system to query, so the company started
from scratch, licensing off-the-shelf software. “It was a database
that came 60% or 70% baked,” says Adamopoulos. “The rest was
customizable and could be changed in response to user feedback.”
The first company should beware of the second company and its
more user-friendly app, he says. “The difference is customer experi-
ence, and it’s going to be huge,” he notes. “The licensed software
will give salespeople the ability to quickly create a portfolio of
products that’s suited to the client. They’ll be looking at the same
types of data, but they’ll be able to control it and shape it any way
they need to.” That might provide a serious competitive advantage,
since the actual products the two companies offer are quite similar.
“We’ve done work with both companies,” Adamopoulos says.
“We keep telling the legacy one that they should look at creating
a more user-friendly experience. They don’t think it’s necessary.
They will a year from now, when they’re losing market share.”
“It used to be that you’d set up a server with databases and put
nodes on a network. Users would have limited capability,” says Joe
Fuller, CIO of Dominion Enterprises, which creates both print and
online publications that match buyers and sellers of real estate, used
cars and other items. “The applications would all be proprietary and
we would print operations manuals that were updated once a year.
People would go to trainings to learn how to use the software, and
they’d sit there with their manuals next to them. Today, you’d be
wasting your time printing ink on paper, and your applications had
better be user-friendly enough that people can figure them out.”
It’s a simple lesson, and one that IT departments every where
need to absorb: The old rules for enterprise applications, both
those built in-house and those licensed from vendors, don’t work
in today’s environment.
Rule No. 1: Make It Appealing
It’s a plug-and-play world, and no company wants to invest its
money and employee time in lengthy or even brief software
training. Even if your company does want to spend money on
training, you may have a hard time getting people to show up.
A recent survey by Swedish ERP vendor IFS revealed that many
employees will simply bypass enterprise software they find user-unfriendly or not intuitive. Rather than take the time to learn
how it works, they’ll come up with elaborate workarounds involving Microsoft Excel or other consumer software.
And if your employees won’t put up with an app that’s not
Continued on page 18
British Airways’ iPad App Improves Customer Service
CAN DEPLOYING a user-friendly enterprise application solve customer service problems? For British Airways, the answer appears to be yes. In August, the airline conducted a pilot test in which about 100 crew members were given iPads loaded with its new Enhanced Service Platform app. After a successful test, the airline is now distributing 2,000 iPads with the app to senior crew members across its route network.
The iPads and the app are intended to replace long scrolls of paper
that list the passengers on board and provide information
such as airline club status, ticket class and special dietary
requirements, if any. The iPads, updated over a mobile network just before takeoff and after landing, give cabin crews
a much more sophisticated tool.
“There’s a lot more information about that passenger,”
says Mike Croucher, head of I T architecture and delivery at
The iPad program was inspired by the desire to improve
customer service. Over the past few years, relations be-
tween the airline and its cabin crews have been fraught with strikes and
near-strikes, and the ill feelings were bleeding over into customer service,
Croucher explains. To serve customers better, “we wanted to re-establish
our engagement first with the cabin crew,” he says.