Embedded Experiences 101
Colleen Burns 120000C4RP firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  adam_smye-rumsby embedded connections social_business
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If social networking defines the current era of computing, then embedded experiences have the potential to herald a new era of knowledge work. Embedded experiences facilitate a new way of working that has the potential to measurably increase employee productivity across industries, geographies and disciplines.
Instead of a to-do list, or calendar, or even an email inbox driving our future workdays, in the near future we will process streams of information (stories) cascading by on one or more timelines, with the ability to take action directly from the timeline.
Such streams will aggregate multiple content types (text, images/charts, videos, and audio such as voicemails) from diverse enterprise systems including enterprise social software, email, CRM, ERP, and BI into a cohesive stream of stories for presentation to workers. Stories give context to information and crucially package the information with an appropriate means to act on that information. For example, a manager may receive a story from the expense system that an employee has filed an expense report, along with options to view, accept or reject the report – right from the manager’s personal timeline. No longer will (s)he have to pivot from an email notification into a web browser-based expense reporting system, log in, pull up the relevant report and take action. All of the relevant information will be brought to the manager, with built-in actions that behind the scenes will perform the necessary processing in existing enterprise systems.
One of the key benefits of embedded experiences stands to be in reducing the number of context switches, or pivots the average knowledge worker has to perform each day. Many enterprises today own separate tools from different vendors for email, CRM, ERP, BI, and social networking– yet few have managed to unify these into a single cohesive user experience; there is almost always a compromise involving a need to switch between multiple tools depending on the task at hand. Studies have shown that some knowledge workers, when switching from one tool to another, actually forget what they were trying to accomplish in the first place (ever had that happen to you?).
Embedded experiences will provide a uniform user interaction paradigm for interacting with business processes, which can lead to significant time savings for employees. Considering that the average knowledge worker spends two hours per day locating information, it is reasonable to assume most workers switch between different applications and tools dozens of times per day. The productivity improvements are easy to calculate.
Forms of embedded experience have been around for years, although it’s only in recent times that standards work has coalesced in such a way as to allow software companies to create one user experience that they know will work reliably and consistently in different contexts. Embedded experiences are dependent on two relatively new technology innovations that were spurred by the rise of consumer social networks; Activity Streams and OpenSocial gadgets.
Activity Streams define a standard format for generating stories and are typically implemented by an enterprise social software platform – such as IBM Connections – although there are consumer implementations, such as Twitter. OpenSocial gadgets are pieces of software created by ISVs and system integrators, that provide the user interface “at the glass” along with a bridge to back-end enterprise systems. Although social networking platforms provide a natural synergy and fit for the packaged actions that constitute the embedded experience, expect email programs of the near future to also offer embedded experiences as a value-add.
The utility of embedded experiences extends way beyond the expense reporting example mentioned earlier. Other areas ripe for applying embedded experiences include document management (electronically signing a legal document), rich media (viewing and approving changes to the latest cut of a marketing video), BI reporting (viewing the latest consumer sentiment reports and performing what-if analyses) and even voicemail.
View a video demo of embedded experiences in action.
What embedded experiences would you benefit from?
Adam Smye-Rumsby has worked in the information technology industry since 2000 in a variety of roles including database administrator, test analyst, technical support specialist and consultant. In his current role Adam advises clients on how IBM solutions can support them in their journeys to becoming social businesses, with a focus on extracting maximum value from their existing IT investments. He enjoys guiding clients towards their social business “aha” moment, and beyond. Adam is a twice-published IBM Redbooks author and also a contributor to the IBM Social Business Insights blog.
Adam is an IBM Redbooks Thought Leader