This article was first published in the Summer 2015 issue of OnWindows
Getting an entire workforce excited about the technology they use is no easy feat. Indeed, despite platforms such as SharePoint and Office 365 being quicker and more cost effective to roll out than they have been in the past, getting users enthused about using them is a different matter altogether.
However, with the addition of an extra layer of ‘user-friendliness’, workforces can begin to make the most of their enterprise IT. This is where LiveTiles comes in.
LiveTiles is a software tool that can be introduced to a company’s SharePoint environment, be that on-premise or through Office 365. With this extra layer, organisations can rapidly build and deploy modern business solutions and user interfaces, including intranets and extranets, for their staff.
“LiveTiles starts to provide a level of creative freedom,” explains Simon Tyrrell, chief product officer at LiveTiles. “It allows users – regardless of how much technical knowledge they have – to build ¬visually-exciting, compelling, flexible user interfaces.”
“We’re bringing simplicity to store workers and managers, allowing them to access, view and retrieve the information they need, and collaborate,” adds Karl Redenbach, CEO and co-founder of LiveTiles. “We’re trying to break the barriers of complex technology and make it really easy for associates and managers to use our technology. This speeds up the whole process of delivering a great solution to staff.”
As IT has begun to influence almost every aspect of our lives, users expect more from the apps and programs they use. They expect regular updates and enhancements and if this doesn’t happen, there’s a risk they’ll look for an alternative.
“People use technology in their home lives all the time,” says Redenbach. “When they order restaurant food, when they search on the internet, when they book a taxi – there’s a whole raft of ways of getting information and carrying out tasks. Workers are now going to start expecting that same level of maturity with their own internal work information and day-to-day life in the workplace.”
The team behind LiveTiles believes in putting creative freedom and power into the hands of the business and end-user, and getting companies to try things and develop their ideas – all within a few minutes. Using the solution, companies can avoid the risk – not to mention the expense – of developing a custom-built user interface in house or having to contract it out to a UI specialist. In fact, Tyrrell says that LiveTiles is so quick and easy to use that even if a company has a go at creating a new user interface and later realises it wasn’t what they wanted, they won’t have wasted valuable time and resources. “Our philosophy is about bringing a bit of sex appeal into it, a bit of design, and not thinking that enterprise software has to be boring, but that it can be wacky and out there if that’s what’s going to appeal to the people that are going to log in and use it,” he adds.
One area LiveTiles is seeing particular traction is the retail sector. “In retail, companies and staff need to react quickly to trends which are constantly changing,” says Redenbach. “It’s a case of constant evolution, but that’s the beauty of what we do at LiveTiles – we allow the users, associates and managers to make changes very quickly.”
Before the cloud computing revolution, it was very expensive to license an entire workforce as everything was on-premise. Following the cloud revolution, however, retailers can now deliver technology outside the head office. And in the retail sector, the vast majority of staff are not in the head office but out in the stores and on the shop floor.
“Cloud computing gave businesses the ability to cost effectively roll technology out, taking away the deployment complexity of ¬infrastructure,” explains Tyrrell. “When you’ve got that kind of workforce, however, the majority are not tethered to a desktop computer. They’re going to be on phones or tablets because they’re out there dealing with customers.”
In order for retail staff to keep their finger on the pulse while out on the shop floor, it’s important that vital information is delivered in an accessible and dynamic way.
Tyrrell says: “That’s really what LiveTiles provides. You can very quickly develop a solution that shows certain information to the store manager, and then has another page for the store worker. That page might be really stripped back and purpose built for a phone – it’s not going to be accessed from a laptop because they simply don’t have one.”
With LiveTiles, users can not only build pages for their workers quickly, but can also easily adapt and update them going forward.
“If you’re going to build pages and want to update them every week, you need something that’s easy,” says Tyrrell. “You can’t be going back to your IT team or external IT provider and schedule in developers to cut the code and go through change control. You need to be able to go into design mode and tweak things. Even with something as simple as moving an item around or changing a colour, users see things evolving and want to check out what it is.”
Redenbach and Tyrrell are fully aware that these trends in what users expect and demand from their technology will continue to evolve. In light of this, LiveTiles is looking into new technologies and emerging trends to identify how best to meet the demands of the organisations that use its technology.
The company has just released the third version of its LiveTiles for SharePoint solution, which has drag and drop responsive design and “is as simple to use as building a table in Microsoft Word”, according to Tyrrell. LiveTiles is also continuing to evolve the mechanisms to enable users to build modern, dynamic ¬content. “We’re looking into things like animation effects, and we’re always keeping an eye on design trends,” says Tyrrell. “The web is now moving towards things like physics-based animation for example. We’re starting to incorporate that and we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve and understand where the web is going next. When a user is at home using a website, we’re thinking about what that website is likely to be doing, and what parts of it makes sense for us to bring in as part of our products.”
Redenbach believes that by allowing organisations to offer staff in the workplace the same technological experience they enjoy at home, LiveTiles is enabling companies to make a real difference to the day-to-day lives of their workforce.
“With the consumerisation of IT, people have apps and access to information that hasn’t necessarily made its way into the workplace just yet,” he says. “We’re allowing retailers and organisations to offer that same experience to the worker. Workers are demanding this now, and I’m of the opinion that retailers will need to start to adopt this type of technology if they want to attract and retain the best staff.”
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