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Greatest Value CIOs and IT Teams Can Deliver: User Experience

Your interactions with technology outside of your work environment are completely voluntary. What applications you download, how often and on what device(s) you interface, where you direct your IT energies and loyalties—all the variables surrounding how you consume technology are rooted in your user experience (UX). Would you continue to go back to a platform or application that is inconvenient, overcomplicated, or just plain underwhelming? I sure as heck wouldn’t, and definitely not on my own time.

But what about your professional time, when the social and other for-fun apps are silenced and you’re in productivity mode—does the importance of a great UX have to stop just because you’re using an app for work? Absolutely not. If anything, a seamless UX is even more important on the work-side, for employee morale and corporate productivity, not to mention the ability for companies to attract and retain top talent. You might say there’s a tremendously compelling business case for CIOs and IT leaders to focus on all things related to developing and maintaining great UXs for internal teams. What say you?.

A Happy Staff is a Productive Staff

Really think about this one for a minute: When was the last time you put extra effort into something you dreaded? Yeah, me neither. If your in-house interfaces are giving people headaches, it may be time to invest in a change. After all, creating great UXs for our internal teams is how we keep employees happy and the work load flowing. Caring about the UXs we create for them—which allows them to do their jobs in ways that not only make sense to them but are also enjoyable—is an important consideration for the CIO and IT team.

It’s important to remember, too, that happy staffers stick around longer and perform better, decreasing the costs associated with hiring and training new employees. More collaboration can occur in these open and positive environments, opening doors for innovation and better workflow.

There’s a High Business Value For Good UX

According to a white paper produced by Knowledge@Wharton titled User Experience: Reimagining Productivity and Business Value, the business value (read that “profitability potential”) for exceptional UX is not only measurable—it’s pretty darn high. The paper cites research data from the Design Management Institute in Boston, showing that companies that invested in design outperformed the S&P 500 Index by over 200 percent between 2004 and 2014 (stocks tracked included heavyweights such as Disney and Starbucks).

Other monetized benefits that add to the business case for good UX include the increased use of existing software licenses, fewer time-consuming and costly errors, and quicker resolution of IT problems.

Why the Hesitation? 

Some businesses that have shied away from a UX focus—often unintentionally, I might add—lack a clear communication among departments about what the exact UX they are creating is and what it should be. Plus, different business models and different industry needs make delivering a uniform path to great UX pretty much impossible, so it’s really up to CIOs and IT teams to evaluate what’s best and to develop some internal guidelines that are uniform across the board. With no assurance of success and some ambiguity when it comes to gathering (and measuring) metrics on UX moves, some businesses are hesitant to take the first step.

Examples of Success

Those hesitant businesses? Perhaps they need to be reminded that when success with UX overhaul comes, it comes big. Knowledge@Wharton’s white paper mentioned above contains three case studies of companies with an exceptional and effective approach to UX and the benefits they enjoyed:

  • Fisker Automotive. To address slow and complicated software that was causing delays in purchasing new parts needed for the launch of a hybrid electric car, this company tried something new. By offering a pilot program for a small group of employees that included mobile access, purchase orders could be approved instantly across devices. The company reduced time to approval by up to 60 percent—think that resulted in some cost savings and impacted speed to market for this product?.
  • Dunn-Edwards. This paint company was losing orders because its CRM software was outdated, complicated, and nearly impossible to use on laptops at job sites. The software was originally designed for a call center, so rather than replace the entire system, Dunn-Edwards contacted the software creator and asked them to build-in some UX features suitable to their business model. The result? Higher profit margins, fewer errors, and minimized training costs. Oh, and happier, more productive sales teams. And customers.
  • Disney. To bolster its HR software UX, Disney launched a program in 2013 focusing on personalization. The mobile-friendly, cohesive, and globally available simple software was well-received in a pilot program, so the company was able to forego the purchase of an entirely new system. Improvements included faster travel expense approvals, quicker pay-stub reviews, and a less complicated timesheet process. It’s now available in 14 different languages, making Disney employees (and their HR counterparts) happier on a daily basis.

Less talk, More Action 

This discussion sounds good on a conceptual level? After all, considering the end user—whether designing custom or choosing cookie cutter internal IT—seems like a no-brainer. Well, whether it is or isn’t, the fact remains that there are a lot of businesses out there that are still failing their employees when it comes to day-to-day technology UX. So, what can we do about it? According to the white paper I mentioned above, there are a few key components of a good UX. To make this actionable, ask yourself the following about your current employee IT interface:

  • Is it intuitively simple to use?
  • Is it personalized for the individual employee?
  • Does it empower end users to be more productive and effective?
  • Is it consistent across devices and environments (mobile and desktop)?

If your answers to any of the above are negative, those are key areas to address immediately.

What’s Next?

If you’re still on the fence about whether investing in UX is worthwhile, step back and take a look at your IT efforts from a big picture perspective. Do your employees consistently use company software, or do they give up and use their own applications, exposing your organization to Shadow IT and its potential for security breaches? Do they blame internal IT for costly losses or delays? What about turnover—if it’s high, have you considered poor UX as a potential reason or at a minimum, a contributing factor?

Perhaps what is needed is a simple comparison: If you were using an application on your personal time and it had a similar UX as the one offered by your internal software, would you keep it or find a better alternative? The business value is there for good UX, and it’s worth our time to reexamine how we’re approaching it with our internal teams.

What do you think? Is internal UX at the forefront of your organization? Or something that’s barely given a second thought? Do you have tips for UX success? Any horror stories? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Additional Resources on this Topic:

Perils of Shadow IT: Most Senior Executives are Doing it (ask Hillary)
The Important User Experience You’re Probably Ignoring
Corporate Employee Apps: Does User Experience Matter?

 

Photo Credit: Negativespace.co

Shelly Kramer

Shelly Kramer is a 20+ year marketing veteran and CEO of V3 Broadsuite, a marketing consultancy, and the President of Broadsuite Media Group. She’s a business strategist focused on B2B digital transformation, and delivering integrated marketing solutions for clients. She’s an expert at omnichannel marketing, content strategy and execution, connecting social media to business initiatives, and helping clients leverage the web for growth and profitability.