And if it isn’t easy – or is perceived to be difficult – it doesn’t get done. Or worse, people walk away.
I’ve lived my entire business life in the IT solution arena, and I’m exhausted by the lengthy adjectives and slogans all the marketing and sales departments use. Do “user-friendly,” “world-class,” or “best of breed” sound familiar? Of course, they do! But, unfortunately, they are overused and now have a diminished impact because of that.
I recently was doing some research on potential new partners. A natural part of that research is to look at a firm’s existing relationships and see if any of them offer a mobile asset management solution.
This research was frequently frustrating and time-consuming. It was often hard to determine what that team did. It reminded me of all the times I went to trade shows, would stop at a booth, read their exhaustive spiel, and still couldn’t figure out what the vendor did.
More and more, it seems like we’re so interested in making ourselves seem “cool” or “cutting edge” that we forget about the audience. I don’t know about you, but generally, when I’m evaluating information, I’m focused on my interests and challenges – not a vendor’s “coolness.”
Unfortunately, imposing what we think is important (instead of what the audience may think) often flows down to the End User experience. And End User experience will make or break the success of an IT solution. It really will.
Get to the Goals
I’ve talked about this before – because it really is a crucial aspect of my business (or any business, really). Getting the goals and needs of a solution right, working towards them, and not getting side-tracked by what we want or what we think is best is always that challenging key to success.
I’ve had some customers that have insisted on solutions that got away from those core goals – and End User needs:
One example is where the management team wanted us to “police” user behaviors with consequences within our system transactions instead of having supervisors manage/correct issues. However, against our recommendations and objections, their senior management still had us go forward with this version of the solution.
Naturally, it didn’t go over well with the Users. It was essentially a failed solution until we were given the go-ahead to correct it and make it easier to use.
Another example is where management insisted on the User collecting and validating a huge amount of data. That increase in data capture had a big impact on the time it took to complete their work – especially when compared to their existing manual process. Trust me – Users will work around a system if it gets in the way of getting their jobs done quickly. It’s what we warned them against – and it’s what happened here.
Once we were able to simplify the User interface and requirements, we again could correct that challenge and make the User’s life easier – which is what automation is supposed to do.
And again, if it is easy, it will be used to get the work done – and management will have the results they sought in investing in an IT solution in the first place.
Shift the Perspective
When we work with our clients, we are constantly returning to the End User perspective. We do this to make sure we aren’t losing sight of those system goals – or imposing what we think is best or would be “cool.”
It’s not just the marketing side to watch. Developers often have their own perspectives on approach too. They view most things from a technical angle (naturally) and not so much as that person who will be using the solution. The latest release of the “X” tool or the cool new “Y” feature could be fun to code – but could also be meaningless (or annoying) to the End User.
To keep ourselves on track, we use multiple levels of review:
- Review the business functions with the technical team before they get started (Know the guy who will be looking at the screens)
- Constantly look at the core product of the solution through the testing / documenting / training activities (Be the guy looking at the screens)
- See how it fits and get feedback during Customer Alpha Testing (Bring in the guy who will be looking at the screens)
We’re constantly challenging ourselves to build the strongest enterprise mobile asset solution on the market. And part of that challenge is to make sure that whatever we build will have extremely high user acceptance.
So check yourself. Do you find yourself using “marketing speak” when you describe your team/products/solutions? Are you keeping your focus on the listener’s perspective or – in our case – the End User experience?
You don’t want to be that tradeshow booth or website that confuses people. You don’t want to be that solution provider that the Users workaround. And, if I start stepping in the direction of trying to be “cool,” my daughter always reminds me that I don’t want to do that either.