Parachutes and User Experiences in Business Solutions
Experience Week started in 1996 as a way of involving people in experiencing air-related activities. Primarily we are talking about jumping out of a plane with a parachute. Most of a Business Analyst's air-related experiences revolve around breathing in stuffy conference rooms or perhaps the occasional embarrassing hiccup. Parachutes are no longer required for National Experience Week (April 10 – 14th, 2017). National Experience Week evolved into more than just jumping out of a plane to have an air-related activity, but having an experience of a life time whether it is climbing a mountain or having a spa day. Today the National Experience Week has over 1,300 experiences from creating art, relaxing massage, white water rafting, and many more daring activities in their registry.
In Business Analysis, we create experiences for users by facilitating a clear vision, eliciting requirements, designing and managing organizational change to deliver exceptional value to our users. User Experience (UX) covers this in greater detail, but the focus of this article is on topics to consider in designing the business solution experience. When you think of a business solution experience, what comes to your mind?
Business Analysis 101 is understanding the need versus the want for stakeholders and project sponsors for the business solution. It is essential in building business solution experiences to understand business needs thoroughly. It can be very easy to lose sight of:
- What problems does the business solution solve?
- What problems are NOT solved?
- What capabilities are provided in the business solution?
- What capabilities are being provided, but NOT expected in the business solution?
Interfaces and Tangible Interactions
The customer or user interfaces with your business solution in some form whether it is a screen, report, email, text, alarm bell or other notification techniques. At each point of interaction with the business solution, a response whether positive or negative is being drawn by the user when interacting with the interface. A loud alarm bell may be an excellent way to alert a team of a major system failure, but it can also be very annoying to have an alarm blaring unexpectedly. Even if the system predicts outages perfectly, users may never interact with it because of their response to the interface. User experience (UX) dives into this in more detail, but at a high level some questions to ask are:
- How does the user or customer react to the interface?
- Does the interface add or remove the value of the underlying system?
- Do the interface and the solution process align?
- If the interface is being used by a particular persona or role, does the interface for a logical progression that persona or role would follow in their typical business day?
The ability of the interface or system to be used by a broad audience is important in many organization and consumer products. The business solution’s ability to be used by blind, deaf, low-vision or color blind people is an important topic when looking at a business solution. Being aware of different accessibility needs will enhance the user experience for those with these concerns. Accessibility is too long and complicated for this article, but there are a few things to consider:
- Can the interface be used by low-vision, bi-focal, or blind users? Almost 90% of adults over the age of 50 require reading glasses or bi-focal lenses. Is the font too small?
- Can the interface be used by hard or hearing or deaf users? If an alarm sounds, the expectation can be to respond to noise, but that is difficult for hard of hearing or deaf users.
- Are colors used in the interface that can be distinguished by the color blind? If the expectation is to act if something turns RED, how will you handle it when the user cannot see red?
- If a screen reader for the blind or low-vision user is employed to read the screen, would it work effectively and meaningfully?
- What are the accessibility standards for your organization?
The process can kill a good business solution and user experience in seconds. If the process is complicated and cumbersome, users will not follow it and won’t engage with the business solution. Building business processes is an art from entirely in and of itself. To achieve a robust business solution, checking to ensure the process supports the interface – or in reverse, the interface supports the process – is a good step in traceability of the business needs. Carefully look at processes that are outside of your business solution but still impact it. Employee on-boarding is a great example. Business solutions that are required to be used by all employees will need to link into the new employee orientation and on-boarding processes to make sure the system will be usable by new hires in a timely fashion.
Integration typically is referred to in a system to system context. Your business solution will need to work within the framework of other systems in your organization. A user experience can be interrupted and quickly soured when hand offs from one system to another are not performed well, or the business solution does not play well with other systems. Validate that the business solution does not negatively impact upstream or downstream systems.
- Are there processes, data points, interfaces, and other items that are inputted into your business solution?
- Are their outputs from the business solution into another business solution that already exists?
- Are projects underway to create a new business solution that could potentially be an input or output to your business solution?
User Motivation is a tough one to manage and uncover. Users can be positively or negatively motivated by their experience with a business solution. Mandatory compliance or the “do-it-or-else-you-are fired” approach is not always practical. Users who are not motivated to use a system will routinely work around it and interact with the business solution as minimal as possible. Giving a positive motivation to a user to interact and use the business solution ensures productive use of the business solution.
Organizational change management can create stronger user motivation in utilizing the business solution. Moving to a new business solution without organizational change management can create a negative motivation even when the system provides significant value to the user. Carefully planning and managing organization change management – especially communication around the business solution – can create a positive motivation. That is not to say some negative impressions by users will remain as not all users want to change. The objective is to ensure a favorable motivation by minimizing negative or unfavorable impressions. You cannot make everyone happy, but you can focus on making a majority less unhappy.
Why does the user want to continue to use your business solution? Think is terms of support, help desk, training, getting questions answered or quick response. These underlying items which often are ignored can disrupt the user experience. Lesson learned from experience is that it is not the fact the business solution failed, but rather how gracefully and positively the recovery from the failure was achieved.
No one can see the future. This crystal ball thing just doesn’t work. The user experience over time will degrade and fall apart over time without thinking of the future for the business solution. You will not have all the answers and solutions to potential future problems for the business solution. However, in thinking of the future for your business solution, you might be able to create ways in which is can be expanded or improved in the future. Another term for this would be the sustainability of the business solution.
Another lesson learned was keeping the focus of the business value in focus initially on implementing the business solution. Delivery of a diminished monetary, time savings, or other benefits will negatively impact the business solution. This issue can be avoided by keeping the business value in focus during the design and implementation phases and carefully managing expectations. If the business case indicated a reduction in processing time by 30% then the business solution should be able to measure and ensure that is delivered but there are times when goals cannot be met for specific reasons. Traceability of requirements and design back to the business case is a good approach to ensuring expected business value is going to be met.
In conclusion, there are many factors which impact the user experience and these are just a handful of items to consider. What other factors would you add to this list? Are these factors important to your projects? Let’s discuss in the comments section.