The importance of user experience in enterprise IT

Paul Boag recently asked are your internal systems damaging your business?
Having spent almost two years thinking about how we can help staff at work better, I’m pleased that our team’s core principles are reflected in the press.
The issue of shadow IT has been one which has only been growing in importance. It has taken a long time, however, to realise that these non-sanctioned tools are being used because the internal systems provided are either inadequate or no longer fit for purpose.

Modern IT provides an experience that millennials have come to expect – easy to use, available everywhere, responsive or mobile enabled and as good as or better than the software and apps they choose to use on their personal devices. For the IT department, these applications should offer SAML single sign-on for identity management across systems, an API for building integrations and providing contextually relevant data across applications and (we hope!) have the same amount of thought applied to their admin panel as the user front-end. Alas, this is not always the case.

Boag says “One size rarely fits all” and it is all too true that off the peg software is, like fast fashion, rarely the right fit for an organisation. Even some of the more configurable business applications just cannot be wrangled to fit a business’ workflow. Despite all protestations to the contrary, we know that teams are never as flexible about changing process to fit a system as they would like us to believe, especially when a new process is less efficient than before. It only gets worse when requirements are missed or change, as it is our job to ensure that requirements are reasonable and representative and to do that it is imperative that we understand a process from all angles.

In terms of understanding requirements, Boag hits the nail on the head. Having a list of desired features is only the start of understanding the requirements for a procurement. Each user has their own needs and motivation for accessing an internal system. Understanding that an expense approver requires certain information, which may be the same as or different to what an accounts payable clerk requires to perform their role in an expense claim scenario (for example) shouldn’t be a leap, but when evaluating software neither will necessarily look from the other’s perspective.

The initial implementation, though, of a piece of software or a process is only the start of the journey. Regular reviews are necessary to ensure that it is still fit for purpose, that employees aren’t sneaking in shadow IT and that the solution is still fit for purpose with performance where you would expect.

I must admit that I do not agree completely with the article. Working in a cloud-first environment, I would be wary about advocating building bespoke systems, when a lightweight integration, process mapping, process changes and/or training could deliver more, faster, with a smaller development outlay.

All in all, if your employees want to use the tools and systems available to them, because they work with them not against them, then the information stored will be more valuable (as it is rich and up-to-date), the employees will be more engaged and that simply translates to a better experience for customers.