Voice-controlled intelligent assistants offer a tantalizingly productive vision of end user computing. Using voice commands, users can extend the computing experience to not just mobile scenarios, but to hyper-mobile, on-the-go situations (such as while driving). With wearables like Google Glass, voice command promises even deeper integration into hyper-mobile experiences, as this video demonstrates. And voice controlled intelligent assistants can also enable next-generation collaboration tools like MindMeld.
In spite of this promise, there remains a lurking sense that voice control is more of a gimmick than a productivity enhancer. (As of the time I posted this blog, a Google search for Siri+gimmick yielded… “about 2,430,000 results”). To see where voice control really stands, we surveyed information workers in North American and Europe about their use of voice commands.
Information workers’ use of voice control today:
In reality, many information workers with smartphones are already using voice commands – at least occasionally. Our survey revealed that:
As I sit at my kitchen table enjoying the quiet of my house before my kids come home, I know that I will move to my office and shut the door once that tranquility is shattered by their arrival. Then later this evening, once the house is again quiet with the monsters nestled in their beds, I might just take a few calls propped up on pillows in my bed. Yes, I do that regularly. Heck, they call it a laptop, right? This is the "home" scenario. On the road, workplaces and spaces vary even more. I really work best from a hotel room, or the hotel bar if I have a good headset on. None of this is new for me; I have played the role of an itinerant worker for years. But for a long time my employers continued to put my name on a door or cubicle. For me, that has now changed. No more nameplate for me. Employers are increasingly waking up to the fact that many employees (or "information workers," ugh... hate the term) just don't need or even want a fixed office or space. And, likely more importantly, the employers don't want that either. An empty office is an under-optimized asset. Both demand-side and supply-side forces converge to drive workplace and space diversity.
We hear a lot about empowered employees these days, and the changing nature of work and the workforce. Forrester's Workforce Employee Surveys investigate trends among information workers such as device usage, collaboration practices, workplace preferences, and attitudes about their employers. And, the signs are clearly indicating that the demand for workplace diversity and choice is on the rise:
For our Forrsights Workforce survey, Forrester annually surveys information workers.* I’m leading final preparation of our Forrsights Workforce survey focused on end user hardware and aimed at five major markets – the US, Canada, the UK, France, and Germany. By end user hardware, we primarily mean PC/Macs, tablets, and smartphones, but we may also focus a bit on peripherals. And we hope to mirror some of the questions from the Forrsights IT Hardware survey, which we develop after this one, so that we can compare results from this information worker survey to what IT buyers report in their survey. Analyst Heidi Shey is working on the other half of the survey, which will focus on security issues.
Below are the hypotheses and topics we plan to explore in the survey. Please give them a quick read, then post or email feedback by Friday, April 12 (Tuesday, April 16 at the very latest). If you are a Forrester client and would like to see a survey draft, please email your account rep and me.
These are statements of ideas we are planning to test in the survey questions, which are designed to confirm or disprove the idea. But we probably can’t fit all of these, so please help us prioritize – especially if you are a Forrsights Workforce client!
Have multiple devices used for work, including many that are personally chosen and/or owned; they spend significant money on devices used regularly for work; and they expect to continue doing so.
Often blend work and personal tasks on the same device, despite employer policies to the contrary.
Tablets drive worker productivity in part due to their hyper-portability, as I argued in a recent blog post. Workers can (and, we showed with data, do) use tablets in more places, places where they wouldn’t (and don’t) take their PCs.
The top question I’ve received about tablet hyper-portability is this one: “Tablets are very portable, sure, but are people using them as creation devices or as (mere) consumption devices?” The general assumption behind this question tends to be that “creation” activities are equal to “productivity,” while “consumption” activities are not. I believe this is a false dichotomy, however. Consuming the right information at the right time can increase worker productivity in and of itself. Let me offer a few examples showing how that can work:
Retail sales associates using tablets with customers. Retailers are equipping sales associates with tablets to use on the retail floor, creating richer interactions with customers – and driving higher sales.
Physicians conducting patient rounds with tablets. Physicians can gain rich, immediate insight into their patients’ health records – saving time and driving more accurate diagnoses in less time. They also use the tablets to show patients results (like x-ray images), creating a better patient experience.
Technology’s value to a business derives at least in part from its ability to increase productivity. The 1987 Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Solow demonstrated that technology increases the productivity of both capital and labor to create economic growth.
Some technologies radically reshape productivity. Take, for example, the cotton gin (1792), which fundamentally transformed labor. A quote from Wikipedia claims: “With a cotton gin, in one day a man could remove seed from as much upland cotton as would have previously taken a woman working two months to process at one pound a day.” By profoundly increasing worker productivity, the cotton gin revolutionized both the textile and agricultural industries.
We’re living through several technological revolutions of our own right now – in, for example, cloud services, mobility, and big data. One technology that leverages all three to some extent is the tablet, a device I follow very closely.
Tablets drive worker productivity through a variety of vectors. One of those vectors is portability. In our Forrsights Hardware Survey, we asked IT decision-makers who either support tablets today or plan to support them soon why they would do so. IT decision-makers’ #1 answer, at 62%? Because tablets are a “more portable form factor than the traditional laptop.” This response eclipsed end user preferences, ease of use considerations, and other possible answers.
I’m very excited to kick off survey development for upcoming Forrester Forrsights surveys that will feature security content. Continuing on from previous years will be the Forrsights Security Survey. This is an annual survey of IT security decision-makers from North American and European SMBs and enterprises. New for 2013 is a Workforce Survey that will provide the (also North American and European) employee perspective when it comes to security and devices in use within their workplace.
These surveys will be fielded April through May, and the results will make their way into published research this summer. Survey development starts now, and I would love to hear what you think about the proposed topics. What are some areas where you’d like to see us gather more data?
Launched earlier this year, Unisys’ People Computing initiative focuses on bringing a “people perspective” to its end user support and outsourcing service offerings. I recently attended Unisys’ Asia Pacific (AP) analyst event in Sydney and this initiative was presented as a key success factor in several infrastructure outsourcing wins in AP in 2011-2012. Case in point: we were given the opportunity to meet Henry Shiner, VP and CIO of McDonald’s Australia/New Zealand. McDonald’s signed an end user computing services contract in 2011 for the management of 43,000 end user devices in Australia and New Zealand. These devices include point-of-sale systems, back-office PC equipment, peripherals, wireless networks, customer order display units, and cameras. Unisys was selected to support the 125,000 people working at 1,060 McDonald’s restaurants. According to Shiner, Unisys’ end user-centric approach was one of the reasons McDonald’s selected Unisys:
Unisys approached service-level definitions from the end user point of view. While the right set of tools and processes are key to efficiently managing more than 60,000 support calls per annum, Unisys approached McDonald’s requirements by working directly with end users — store operators in franchised restaurants — by organizing focus groups to better define end user requirements.
My blog post Apple Infiltrates The Enterprise: 1/5 Of Global Info Workers Use Apple Products For Work! got lots of visibility because of how hot Apple is right now, but our data is much broader than just Apple. Our Forrsights Workforce and Hardware surveys have lots more data about all types of PCs and smart devices that information workers use for work, including types of operating systems — and we even know about what personal-only devices they have.
For example, as of the fall of 2011, the top three smartphone OSes have essentially the same share of the installed base of smartphones used for work by information workers across the globe (full-time workers in companies with 20 or employees who use a PC, tablet, or smartphone for work one hour or more per day). See the chart below and the reference in the Monday, January 30, New York Times article on Blackberry in Europe.
Your workforce is mobile and loving it. They love it because they can get things done anywhere, anytime, on any device. You can almost see happy tails wagging as they check their email. But they haver no idea how disruptive mobile devices are to the IT status quo. Sure, mobile email is a small dog to train. But what about mobile business apps? That dog is bigger than a rhinoceros.
To keep your workforce loving your business applications as they go mobile, you will have to redesign the fundamental architecture for delivering apps. The architecture of Client-Server (and Browser-Server) is inadequate. You will need to build from an architecture of devices and services. The mobile app Internet is that architecture: local apps (including HTML5 browsers) on smart mobile devices and cloud-hosted interactions and data.
My friend and colleague John McCarthy has written a seminal report for Forrester clients sizing the market for the mobile app Internet. In this report, he lays out the growth model for mobile apps (six drivers of growth), segments the market for mobile apps+services (mobile apps, application development, mobile management, and process reinvention), and sizes the total mobile apps+services market ($54.6B by 2015).
This is an important report. Everybody should read it. Here's my take on what it means for content and collaboration professionals: