“Call daughter,” I tell my phone as I get into my car. I could manually enter her number or find it in my Contacts app, but why bother when there’s a more efficient way? Even the simple act of making a call has been streamlined. The intelligent assistant that facilitated my call exemplifies the frictionless, invisible apps that permeate our daily lives. They’re so ubiquitous that we hardly notice them as we use them.
Invisible apps are increasingly blurring the lines between work and personal life as they infiltrate enterprise ecosystems. While this may be a revelation to some, the concept of invisible apps is not new. They are essentially a façade for existing business applications.
Employees do not want to be tethered to a business application or process, or even feel as if they are. Thanks to the consumerisation of IT, many now expect omnichannel experiences in everything they do. Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) are transforming the end-user experience, allowing employees the opportunity to demand simplicity when it comes to meeting their requests and getting their queries answered.
Invisible apps: Employees’ new best friend
Invisible apps allow employees to interact with applications without even realising they’re doing so. An early example of this is employees emailing their service desk to create a ticket, rather than logging into the system. Another is approving purchase orders and expense reports via email, while a finance application is running in the background.
Using invisible apps to implement transparent, frictionless processes can significantly benefit organisations. Such experiences can bolster digital transformation efforts by enhancing employee engagement and increasing adoption rates.
Frictionless processes can also reduce stress and simplify the steps required to complete specific tasks. Invisible apps not only encourage greater adherence to processes but also enhance employee satisfaction by efficiently handling their requests. For instance, employees can check their holiday leave balance through an internal messaging system, rather than logging into a human resources management app.
Businesses also benefit when their interactions and other data are captured through the deployment of invisible apps. This enables organisations to analyse their processes, extract insights, and lay the groundwork for future digital transformation initiatives. With higher adoption rates, reduced workloads, and improved data collection, organisations achieve better business outcomes.
Invisible automations in use today
One example of making apps invisible involves consolidating multiple help desk applications into a single window. When end-users require assistance, they simply access this window, and the invisible apps take over, routing the ticket to the appropriate servicing organisation and thereby elevating the user experience.
Another method companies are employing is the deployment of chat-based interfaces within applications. For instance, Pair, a language model-powered assistant designed for local government officers, is integrated directly into Microsoft Office. This enables civil servants to utilise AI and NLP technologies for tasks like research, document summarisation, policy paper drafting, answering citizen queries, and redacting personally identifiable information (PII) without needing to log into a separate application. The latter feature is particularly crucial for officers handling sensitive data
Robotic process automation (RPA) is another avenue that local governments, including Singapore’s VITAL—a central agency for corporate shared services in the public sector—are exploring to improve employee experience. This also holds significant potential for the private sector. VITAL is currently developing a centralised platform that will enable government agencies to easily implement RPA solutions, thereby increasing work efficiency by reducing tedious, repetitive tasks.
Enterprises can also benefit from RPA bots by automating the transfer of data between two business processes, eliminating the need for manual interactions from end users. For example, messenger bots can display key metrics to users without requiring them to log into the company’s business intelligence portal. Such bots can also unilaterally send actionable intelligence to support better decision-making.
The race towards a better employee experience
Given the widespread use of invisible apps and their ability to reduce process friction while operating in the background, decision-makers should consider implementing them. For those who have already done so, optimising these apps can maximise ROI. A deep understanding of the user base can enhance the impact of invisible apps on employee experience. By adapting organisational digital strategies based on this understanding, invisible apps can be customised to improve processes and reduce workloads.
This commitment to improving workflows positions companies to outperform competitors and retain talent, thereby enhancing prospects for business growth and longevity.