Enterprise interface – user centricity is only one component

Posted: June 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Business, Design & UX | No Comments »

Whenever Gartner analyst and enterprisey maven Thomas Otter writes about User Experience its thought provoking and provocative. We need more like him in the enterprise app space.

Citing the work of Gartner colleagues Ray Valdes, Eric Knipp and David Mitchell Smith on HTML5 and Flash in the enterprise context, Thomas shared the following:

…the root causes for a suboptimal user experience consist of lack of appropriate process and governance, and lack of a genuine commitment to a quality user experience. Such a commitment would lead organizations to adopt a user-centered, usability-oriented development process. Rather than taking these steps, we see a lot of projects that are “stakeholder-driven” (i.e., driven by internal politics). Very few organizations center development around user needs by relying on objectively measured data about user behavior. Most enterprises don’t seem to care enough about the user experience to change their habits (in terms of processes that are developer-driven, vendor-driven and stakeholder-driven, rather than user-driven).

I agree but contend there’s more complexity than a commitment to quality user experiences and robust user-centric development processes can overcome on their own. User experience shouldn’t be centered on any single aspect at the expense of another, and I’ve seen a rush to user centricity focus too much on the bits and pieces of an interface and lose track of business imperatives and practical realities.

Users need to get their due but that must happen in the context of what the company needs them to do in order to accomplish goals and strategies that the software is meant to enable. Giving the user what they ‘want’ may be at odds with what the company needs. Business goals come first, and user experience must be reconciled to those goals.

IT always has a position on customizing UIs, often for good reason. That needs to be reconciled against the impact of a poor UI – whether it’s productivity loss, missed opportunities and targets, non-compliance, etc., those factors may override the impact of rework when upgrades and patches are applied. To be certain, vendors don’t make it easy for companies to affect UI changes – they historically discourage them, so it’s no surprise IT wants to stay as close to shipped as possible.

Ray, Eric and David are astute analysts so I suspect they would suggest that governance is the proper forum for working through these issues. I agree, and balancing of business and stakeholder needs, user experience and needs and IT support/sustainability should be at the top of their mandate. In my experience, governance with that robustness and commitment is hard to find.