Human-centred design key to effective implementations

Large technology implementations within organisations inevitably focus on delivering high-quality technology solutions, with the aim of enabling the enterprise to improve its business. However, for such a project to truly succeed, it is not the technology, but rather the user, that should be placed at the centre of the implementation.

To ensure a project like this succeeds, it is imperative to empathise with the end-users, explains Anton Rose, Head of Experience Design at BlueSky. This means having a deep understanding of the challenges they face, the jobs they are trying to get done and unmet needs. It is also about understanding not just how the solution will work at a technical level, but how it will benefit the end-user, as this is what leads to value generation for the business.

“While there are many reasons a large technology implementation may fail, one of the major contributors is slow and low user adoption. In fact, Forrester(1) notes that some 70% of projects fail due to a lack of user acceptance, and more often than not, ‘people issues’ rather than ‘technology issues’ are the challenges cited as being the greatest barrier to success,” he says.

“It is for this reason that it is necessary to place people at the centre from the outset of any planned implementation. You should thus leverage user research to not only understand the problem you are solving for, but also to evaluate your solutions, and to measure their impact on users and business.”

User research throughout the process is critical, he adds, especially in a large-scale technology roll-out. If the organisation does not properly understand the people who are going to use it, it cannot design an implementation that will truly meet the needs of its people.

“And the last thing you want is to be well under way with a costly technology roll-out before you find out that the people it is intended for don’t, won’t or can’t use it.”

When it comes to human-centred design, there are a few key methods that he finds are particularly useful in driving value. First and foremost, he says, it is necessary to empathise with the users.

“This is about putting yourself in their shoes to understand the tasks they are trying to achieve and what frustrations they have in order to identify opportunities to improve and innovate. After all, why redesign an archaic process when it can be re-imagined altogether?”

Such an understanding of the users is best achieved by observing and talking directly to them, to gain a deep understanding of their world.

“Mapping the end-to-end journey is key to designing a holistic experience. By mapping the end-to-end journey of users, we can understand the sequence they go through in trying to achieve their goals, the moments that matter and the key pain points. Only by understanding the holistic journey can you design a compelling experience,” he notes.

A key goal of the designer, continues Rose, is to ensure that the technology implemented is easy and pleasurable to use.

“Usability is critical in today’s fast-paced world. The technology needs to be easy to learn and simple to operate, so that users don’t negatively impact their productivity, due to trying to understand complex technology solutions. Remember that any technology that delivers a bad user experience will likely not achieve the adoption rates expected. On the other hand, delivering a high-quality user experience will make work processes faster, safer and more efficient.”

Two important techniques to achieve this is prototyping and usability testing. A prototype is a simulation of a final product, which UX teams use for testing with real users. It allows you to make decisions based on real data, not assumptions.

Key benefits of prototyping(2)

You get 50% more accurate estimates for build time and cost;
You get 80% reduction in requests for clarification by the development team;
A 25% reduction in reworking and bug fixes, post launch; and
It costs up to 100 times more to fix bugs in production versus when in design.
Overall, he points out, it is important to understand the return on investment (ROI) of your user experience design. Often when budget cuts are necessary, this is the first area where cuts are made. However, if you can demonstrate the ROI – such as by quantifying the increased levels of productivity it enables – it will help you to justify your business case.

Rose refers to 2015 results(3) that indicate that over the last 10 years, design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 211%.

“Essentially what this proves is that you should always consider placing your people at the centre of any design or implementation you are undertaking. Before you begin the design, gain an understanding of your users’ needs and frustrations and map them to an end-to-end journey; during the project, co-create and test with real users to ensure the user experience is meeting their needs; and lastly, measure the impact of the implementation afterwards, to determine just how much benefit it has offered to your users,” concludes Rose.

References:

(1) https://www.forrester.com/report/Rich+Internet+Application+Errors+To+Avoid/-/E-RES46114

(2) https://www.amazon.com/Prototyping-Practitioners-Todd-Zaki-Warfel/dp/1933820217

(3) https://www.dmi.org/page/DesignValue/The-Value-of-Design-.htm

To learn more about BlueSky’s experience design offering please contact us at info@bsky.co.za

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