Sunday, March 14, 2010

Enterprise Software where SMS is the only end-user interface

In my last post, i wrote a simple use case where a new employee is helped by the IT department via tweets and direct text messages. In this use case the only interface used was text messages. These messages can be posted and received even by the most rudimentary phones on earth. If enterprise software has to reach and benefit every person in the world, it should have the ability to adapt to the most basic interface, text.

I have been thinking for a while about this now and wonder, how a text only user interface for an enterprise application might work. I saw some interesting examples during my last visit to India.

Project Management
After a long career as a college professor, my mother now works for several women's welfare organizations in India. The project manager for one of her assignments is a young man in his thirties from another city.. Every day morning he texts the tasks to her cell phone. [My mother uses a regular Motorola phone.] At the end of the day she texts back her updates to him so that he can track and report. She looked at my BlackBerry and said, "You can do a lot with text". I am glad she never had to seen the interface of any enterprise software system. I tried to capture the use case here.

Employee On boarding
In my previous post I wrote a simple use case where an employee tweets about her status on the first day of work and IT staff of the company monitor her tweets to proactively to help her. Is it not great to tell your Net Generation new hires, to just walk into the office and tweet about what they are doing and what they are having trouble with. One of my colleagues, Girish extended that idea and said why just IT? Why not a community of self appointed employees who monitor new hires and help them settle down in a new workplace. A group of people will directly text them directly to tell them what to do.

This scenario can happen in any country, any industry, any language, any mobile phone. The behind the scenes text analysis software can be sophisticated. But for the new hire, there is practically no software involved.

I am sure there are wonderful ideas out there for using just text as a user interface. What are your thoughts? Any killer use cases for just SMS? If you share an idea with me, I might draw (no promises though) the use case in a comic strip format, post it here and give you credit for the use case.
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