Moving from Transaction to Engagement

by R “Ray” Wang

Mobile enterprise, social business, cloud computing, advanced analytics, and unified communications are converging. Armed with the art of the possible, innovators are seeking to apply disruptive consumer technologies to enterprise class uses — call it the consumerization of IT in the enterprise. The likely results include new methods of furthering relationships, crafting longer term engagement, and creating transformational business models. It’s part of a shift from transactional systems to engagement systems.

These transactional systems have been around since the 1950s. You know them as ERP, finance and accounting systems, or even payroll. These systems are designed for massive computational scale; users find them rigid and techie. Meanwhile, we’ve moved to new engagement systems such as Facebook and Twitter in the consumer world. The rich usability and intuitive design reflect how users want to work — and now users are coming to expect the same paradigms and designs in their enterprise world.

Engagement systems share nine common traits

A few thought leaders have helped drive the thinking on systems of engagement. Geoffrey Moore has discussed how systems of engagement will drive knowledge worker effectiveness and productivity. Dion Hinchcliffe of Dachis group details the transition from systems of record to systems of engagement in how the social web and open internet are changing business. As with the shift to the Internet, organizations that miss this shift from transactional systems to engagement systems will face dire consequences.

Our initial research identifies nine characteristics of engagement systems that differ from the transactional systems of yesteryear (see the table for a historical view):

1.  Design for sense and response. Engagement systems “listen” to assess status, sentiment, and context. For example, detection of negative sentiment could lead to a discount on your next purchase or a proactive phone call to address an issue. These systems go beyond transactional systems that focus on reliability, stability, and continuous improvement.


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