Have You Uxified your Enterprise Applications Yets?

Hari Nallan, CEO, Thinks Design Collaborative Pvt. Ltd.Think Design Collaborative collaborates with visionary organizations to identify, build and materialize innovative products and services.

IT powered enterprises have come a long way, from digitizing operations and streamlining processes in the last decade to automation, data intelligence and resource optimization today. In this context; and being at the helm of affairs strategizing enterprise UX work at my company, I have a few insights to share. At the core of it all, is using user centered design processes to define superior experiences; There are many studies from the past, which indicate that organizations that keep their employees engaged achieve superior productivity compared to the organizations that don’t.

In order that we achieve better employee engagement through our IT initiatives, I would recommend a few UX approaches from my experience in this domain:

Place Your Users at the Center of it All
Of course, User Centered Design means exactly that! But the question is, how do we do this?

It is not exactly a difficult thing to achieve, provided we have the necessary understanding in place and a commitment to practice this approach. We must start this by defining Personas. A persona is a notional user of your application and she/he embodies certain behavioral characteristics and has a specific set of needs.

When we define personas,we empathize with our users and think through their goals, needs, points of delight and failure; there by understanding their latent needs.

This is the very first step to conceptualizing a good product, the user centered way… and the most important one!

Map and Deliver for Interdependencies
An organization has several people, all playing their roles and interdependencies are extremely important. Many of the enterprise applications I use, fail to cater to those organizational characteristics and thus, lead to great amounts of frustration while using them. We can create great User Experiences by defining roles first
and then, mapping interdependencies among them. By mapping and designing our application in a way it accommodates those interdependencies, we will be making the whole experience friction free and intuitive for our users.

With more and more standardized tasks getting automated and humans at the threat of losing their jobs to bots, there is unprecedented pressure on our people to move up the value chain

Design to Make Journeys Memorable
We could first start by defining our user journeys. A user journey is a story-telling way of mapping a sequence of events, actions or tasks that user undertakes while using our application. While defining journeys and creating a journey map in detail, we will be able to understand and visualize specific areas of interest. Each step in a user journey is an opportunity for us to delight the user; and make their journeys memorable for them.

Focus on Quality, not Quantity of Features
This is the trickiest part! Gone are those days when enterprise applications meant a host of features, cluttered dashboards and layers after layers of functionality. With the advent of mobility, the focus is on doing a few things very well instead of doing many things thought lessly.

With each feature comes a set of test cases and a bunch of user comprehension issues… with organizations geographically spread and with people from multiple demographics and cultural backgrounds working for the same organization, the challenges are further complicated.

In this context, it is only prudent that we focus only on what is absolutely important and build the best possible experience for those finite set of features.

Enable Easy Handoffs
Enterprises are all about handoffs, aren’t they? At the crux of managing productivity is managing handoffs well. A delay, error or issue at just one of the several steps could mean a cascading effect that could threaten the entire organization’s productivity. In most of the enterprise applications I have seen, handoffs are still expected to happen through email or chat conversations.

I have a serious problem when something important gets stacked in those umpteen conversations that I never visit, only to realize much later that I missed handing off something very critical!

While it is a common problem, we cannot blame users for their oversight. A new approach shaping up to this effect is, replicating social media like feed in enterprise applications. In addition to this, we have alerts and notifications that remind users of what needs attention and what doesn’t. More importantly, we need to understand that handling handoffs in our UX is extremely critical and it needs much more consideration than a line of text a user is expected to read!

With more and more standardized tasks getting automated and humans at the threat of losing their jobs to bots, there is unprecedented pressure on our people to move up the value chain. While this is happening on one hand, on the other, we have a host of IT initiatives shaping up across our enterprises that are expected to make our people more and more productive. In this context, there is no doubt that it is the User Experience of IT that will create the next best organization by empowering its employee. The time to act to this effect is Now!