Run Very Fast and Get Somewhere Else

Run Very Fast and Get Somewhere Else
Laura Collins, Cerillion’s Customer Experience Manager, takes inspiration from Lewis Carroll as she looks at the impact of smartphones and touch screen technology on enterprise applications.
“’Well, in our country,' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else — if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.'
'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place.
If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'”1
In the world of enterprise applications we handle a lot of data, often presented in columns and rows. I felt pleased when I first used paged tables. No more vertical scrolling. A nice viewable list of search results all on one screen. Read the data. Sort it by any column. Click once to move to the next page. Print it. Save it to CSV. So civilised.
A couple of weeks ago I got my first touch screen monitor and opened up a long list of task assignments. One flick and it skimmed down the list. A gentle touch and it stopped at the one I wanted. I tapped to open up the details. No mouse. No scrollbar. No need for paged tables. I thought of Alice.
Another recent addition: I finally broke down and bought a smartphone. Couldn’t see why I’d need one, but I wanted to experience it first-hand. I was smitten. One touch to open an app. Icons with just the options I need. And fun to use. 
Why can’t our enterprise applications be more like that? Why can’t searching be more like Google and Amazon? At any rate, it’s a question I’m asking. In Amazon I don’t have to say, ‘I’m looking for a book’, or ‘I’m looking for a toy’. I just start typing.
If we ask the right questions, we must be able to find the right technical solutions. We can continue to provide menus and pages and tables of data. But that’s beginning to seem like just ‘running fast to stay in the same place’. We need to focus more on the user experience, not just the user interface. It needs to be efficient and engaging.
Users of CRM applications answer billing enquiries. They create new customer accounts. They sell products and services. They log fault calls and make appointments. The list of activities could go on.  What they see on the screen should help them do their jobs efficiently. What they see should be relevant to the task at hand. Think smartphone. Get to everything from icons. Show the icons if you need them; hide them if you don’t.
We need to think about graphics, and how they might help.  Touch screens may not be a realistic option for everyone. If menus and pages are useful, then by all means we should keep them. But touch screens and smartphones raise the game. They challenge us to think in new ways.
In our industry we need to run very fast and get somewhere else.
1 Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll