Watch out! Intranets on your wrist

Some people believe the launch of the Apple Watch has raised the prospect of the corporate intranet breaking into another new technology territory: wearables. We’ve come a long way in the last few years with universal intranet access now commonplace, but how might the intranet manifest on a smart watch?

Despite the fact that very few of us have worn one or used one, the Apple’s latest gadget porn (or fashion item depending on which camp you are in) has the ability to generate polarized headlines of love and hate. Regardless of the specific capabilities of this particular piece of hardware, wearables is a new frontier and, as both Gartner and Salesforce note,  your digital workplace will be headed there soon enough. But how might we use it?

The Washington Post detectives, fresh from watching the latest Apple ads, describe the watch as having three basic functions: productivity; health and wellbeing; and notifications. This seems like a good place for us to review its place in the corporate world.

Productivity: AKA, getting stuff done

AW labour reportIncreasingly, good intranets are places of work. Most are now serving up a heady mix of cold uninteresting news with some perfunctory-but-dull business tools and transactions and it’s with these tools that the Apple Watch surfaced intranet may come into its own.

The screen is bright, clear but small. There will be no detailed analysis of an employees expense report on this device and you’ll certainly not be dictating someone’s objectives into Siri, but we can easily envisage you using the device for quick approvals or viewing snapshot updates from applications around your business. Our verdict is that the watch is an acceptable place for select transactions for a select group of people, like your organisation’s executives.

Let’s not forget that functional wearables have been around for ages and just because the Apple Watch has now entered the market we can’t ignore all the pioneering organisations who are already incorporating them into their work life.

Health and Wellbeing

There is no doubt that Apple are banking big on the Apple Watch being a valued health and wellbeing. Why wouldn’t they? It’s a huge market worth billions, saturated with many established players like Fitbit, Nike, Garmin and many more. How this could apply to the corporate world is more obtuse but of no less value to the employee and company alike.

According to the Partnership for Healthy Workforce, employees are “more likely to be attracted to, remain with, and value a company that obviously values them.” and taking an interest in an employees health through health and wellbeing tracking is just one potential way this manifests. Healthy employees are more productive, take 27% fewer days off work and are happier and cheaper than non-active employees. Be clear, this is why your company offers you private health care – it’s a deal sweetener that pays back several times over.

This is why we are seeing organisations and specifically HR focusing on global wellbeing programmes. Initiatives like the Global Corporate Challenge demonstrate that health and wellbeing initiatives are important to companies and employees alike and health wearables make tracking and incentivising activity easier.

For example, many organisations already give staff wearables like Fitbit to help promote health and wellbeing, and some even go further and use the health data to analyse their employees. The Apple Watch has a lot of catch up to do here in order to break into this market and take over from other products already in deals with global organisations.

Is this coming to an intranet soon? Maybe not, but wearables could become part of the IT and HR corporate package.


aw newsflashThe 2013 Meeker report noted that on average, we’re all accessing our smartphones 150 times a day. That hit rate tells and almighty story: we’re not consuming long, time-sapping materials on our smartphones, we’re not talking minutes, we’re talking moments. The staggering growth of Twitter points to the huge value in concise updates. Information on the internet and intranet needs to fit into these moments. Bite-sized, instant consumption updates for our small-screen, time-pressured, attention-span-short employees.

The Apple Watch is ready made for this. With taptic notifications and a small crisp screen, it’s ideal for discreetly serving up intranet newsflashes, product alerts, customer notifications and more. Does anyone remember the pager? Or the tannoy? It feels to us like we are going back to displaying simple messages already perfected decades ago. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not new.

What does Intranetizen think?

The Apple Watch and other new to market wearables have plenty of detractors. Their criticisms about the clarity of purpose, of the lack of waterproofing, of battery power and of it’s umbilical connection to the iPhone are valid.  Forcing content creators to think small and uber functional may allow them to realise big workplace value in due course. But, what have they missed that could make them jump straight into the corporate world? For one, they could allow people to lock their PC’s when they are away from their desk. Data loss and information security is a big concern. Pairing your PC to a corporate controlled wearable would do this better, just like it could replace your ID card for door security and secure printing. Usability experts note that current wearables take quite a lot of learning and they work well for ‘glance-able’ information.

The Apple Watch has produced a bit of a debate between the four of us. Do we think wearables have a place? Yes and it has been already proven by organisations. Is the answer the Apple Watch? Not really. Some of us still believe it is priced and marketed as a high fashion product. The first version has held back on a lot of functionality because Apple is watching and waiting to see where the industry is going. They are preparing to jump in with a newer and smarter version. Until then, the Apple Watch will be a product we look at but not buy.

Trends that will be focused on because of the Apple Watch

Minimalist design. Small screens means brevity in interface. We hope this continues even if the content is viewed on a bigger screen.

Device independence. Operating systems and common screen size are only going to get more difficult to develop and work with. Separate data from interface so that it can be displayed in many forms.

What do you think? Do you have a smart watch / wearable? Are you using any intranet services on it yet? Tell us your story.

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