What does the future of the business apps market look like, according to Microsoft’s Field Service legend Ben Vollmer?


Ben Vollmer has recently joined Resco’s team as the Strategic Advisor. He brings a wealth of experience from his tenure at industry-leading companies, IFS and Microsoft, both leaders in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Customer Experience, Field Service, and Enterprise Resource Planning.  

We sat down to explore the future of business applications and discussed his perception of the role of AI technology and the needs of future generations of frontline workers. Read Ben’s take on the areas where business applications could do more for the people using them. 

The role of AI in tech

Ben Vollmer shared his perspective on artificial intelligence, emphasizing that AI will become critically important when it empowers people to make better decisions instead of replacing them.

“The best examples that are available right now are anomaly detection, next logical purchase suggestions, and optical character recognition. With Large Language Models being rapidly developed, the ability to distill information into knowledge will be a critical thing that will be used to help enhance experiences for frontline workers.”

Ben emphasized the need to expand AI beyond the office and use it to meet the unique demands of deskless workers.

“So far, AI is benefiting only desktop workers. A huge technological focus shift from desktop workers to frontline workers needs to happen. We are caught up in servicing desktop workers because it is easy. They have internet all the time! In the next couple of years, the whole industry will improve in looking at mobile workers as well. “

The next thing Ben Vollmer sees taking off is interactive AI – the ability of apps to talk to and use other apps. We have too many applications on our phones that act in a silo and don’t and won’t exchange data with other applications. “Our users don’t just use one app on their phone. We have to make sure we have an amazing end-to-end process and exchange to benefit the people who use the software.”

Using AI is too challenging for people without a technical background. “In a desktop scenario, some of Microsoft’s Copilot innovations are very impressive. You can go in and start describing what you want, and it starts building it for you. But it still needs you to be able to articulate your needs quite precisely.

Only when non-technical people feel comfortable using automation scripts will it happen for the rest of the world. There is a ton of work to do here,” he added. “It has helped with knowledge work but has yet to help with non-knowledge work.”

Micro-verticals and super apps

When looking at the market, Ben Vollmer sees two dominant trends emerging. “The biggest trend I see going across the market is micro-vertical. People no longer want to buy something that is ‘for manufacturing.’ That is too broad of a topic. They say: ‘I want just discrete industrial manufacturing,’ or ‘I want sales for my business.’ So, then you get start seeing business apps specifically for micro verticals to meet specific needs while fitting inside a company’s overall IT landscape.”

“I have seen a lot of people deploying just things that help drive their business and solve specific problems. They don’t want to wait for three years for the development cycle.”

Another trend Ben Vollmer described is the rise of the super app. “It is something that matches everybody’s needs. You can use it to do everything you want to. For instance – take iMessage on the iPhone. They have one of the world’s largest banks with the Apple Card. You can send money over iMessage. You can interact in rich ways, which means you never leave iMessage. Your iPhone has become a super app. 

Other examples are Microsoft Teams, Zoom, WhatsApp, the social platform X, and WeChat. In China, WeChat is used for everything, including financial transactions. The development of business apps usually copies the development of consumer apps. So, you must look at consumer apps as the path to look down.”

So many apps think their user interface is the one seen by the customers. But as we have seen with Teams, Zoom, and WeChat, we need to work to make sure we can engage with our end users in a way that makes sense for them. 

Designing for new generations of workers

When asked what should guide solution architects when designing solutions, Ben replied that they should focus on exercising their sense of empathy.

“Where I live, we have a food chain called Waffle House. They make all their office workers go out and spend at least one day a month in the restaurant. The biggest thing for solution architects, for companies, is to have empathy for the end user. It is easy to say: I go to the office daily. This is what work feels like for me. They should always go out and sit with people. To understand how they work and how they operate.”

Where does Ben Vollmer look for trends? Not in the rearview mirror. “You have to look at people and what they need.” 

Ben Vollmer has over 25 years of experience in product management. After spending 14 years at Microsoft heralding Field Service, he joined IFS to enable customers to maximize the three moments of service: customers, people, and assets. He has joined Resco as a Strategic Advisor to the Board and the CEO and continues working as an independent consultant for technology companies.