Quality, Benefit, Speed: Why user experience is everything
Fewer kings, more champions
Retailers believe that the customer is king. Marketers believe that content is king. The French believe that “ROI” is king (one for the linguists). At Experior, we are less interested in crowning monarchs than we are in championing users. For us and our customers, the user is everything – and we don’t mean that as a glib statement. More than 12 years’ experience has told us that those large businesses rolling out complex enterprise applications who put the user experience at the heart of their project are most likely to see the anticipated benefits of the investment successfully realized.
It hasn’t always been this way. The IT industry has been accused of paying lip-service to users, where enterprise applications are treated as IT projects without giving serious consideration to the needs and behaviors of the people who will ultimately have to use the application. This approach always leads to user dissatisfaction, lost time and burnt budgets with the IT team and consultants trying to make the application fit the business post go-live. There is an old phrase that enterprise applications such as Enterprise Resource
Planning (ERP) pour in to a business like water, but set like concrete. If you don’t test and deploy with the user in mind then you fundamentally force them into using technology and adopting behaviors that stop them being able to do their day job properly. And in very large businesses that adds up to thousands of man hours wasted and erosion of the efficiencies, integration and seamless collaboration that these applications are put in to achieve in the first place.
But, if you get application design, testing and deployment right – with user need and a holistic view of the overall business aims of the project in mind – you save money, reduce inefficiencies and allow people to do their jobs brilliantly. And they will love you for that.
User experience – three levels, three aims, one strategy
So what do we mean by “users?” Well, there are three groups of users who typically define the success of application projects: The IT department, which is responsible for selecting and implementing the system; the business managers who want to see their strategy executed and day to day operations deliver ongoing business success; and the ultimate end-user – whether an employee in a line of business or a consumer who wants to collaborate, share, interact and engage.
Each of these sets of users has very specific needs and goals:
- End users want functionality, speed and ease of use. They typically work rapidly and think in seconds. Applications must be efficient, fit for purpose, powerful and immediately available
- The business wants to make money and increase profit. Delivering success through sales, marketing and customer service, these users think in days and weeks – taking business decisions and rolling out strategies and campaigns to deliver short and medium-term gains
- The IT department, however, thinks in months or even years. The process of selecting, testing, deploying, debugging, customizing, retesting and maintaining applications struggles to match the pace of change within the rest of the business because of the huge complexity of IT integration
IT departments have to therefore find fast, effective and repeatable techniques to reduce risks and speed up deployment of applications to meet the timelines of the business. This is especially true for those projects that sit closer to end users and customers. IT will need to start testing more often and with a greater emphasis on user experience and crucially the original business outcomes planned, otherwise they risk losing control of IT projects altogether as the line of business will circumvent the IT department and deploy their own solutions – and all the risk that entails.
A new way to test
Most testing methodologies don’t help. They fundamentally miss the point of user experience. They focus on individual elements of application functionality in isolation while missing the bigger picture. From the diagram of a typical application development deployment lifecycle we can see why this is an issue. Typically, the testing phase exists in isolation from the critical requirements and blueprint phase, but this is exactly where testing should have the biggest impact.
Experior delivers experience-centric testing. Using our deep domain expertise and experienced consultants, we work with our customers and their users to ensure that the design of the application meets the strategic requirements of the business from the outset. Our testing approach then focuses on testing the overall functionality, quality and speed of an application, rather than individual elements of code or point problems. This way, we spot issues early, ensure that the user experience remains at the heart of the application and reduce the cost of testing to a fraction of the overall project budget.
For Experior this is our risk-based testing approach and is the fundamental reason we deliver material cost savings and efficiencies. This may sound obvious but three observations actually belie the self-evident truths: first, it actually takes deep system and business expertise to put this approach into action; secondly, it goes against the siloed approach favored by the typical linear project implementation methodologies; finally its success depends on the experience we have been able to build up by being the specialist testing firm: it is hard to be this good at testing as a generalist systems integrator.
Don’t just take our word for it
Experior has an incredible track record of working with large enterprise clients from retailers to utilities. We’ve built great relationships with CIOs and helped brilliant applications go live at a fraction of the cost of the traditional testers — and with no P1 incidents post-live to boot — is a testament to this.
User experience testing sits at the heart of our offering — and that’s why customers such as Howdens are seeing such great results from using our consultants and testers to deliver brilliant experience and project success.
Howdens Joinery was founded in 1995 in order to serve the needs of small builders undertaking routine joinery and kitchen installation work. Howdens’ mission is “to supply from local stock nationwide the small builder’s ever-changing routine kitchen and joinery requirements, assuring no-call-back quality and best local price.” Howdens Joinery is a British business that prides itself on a sense of local community and great experience. Its IT and applications have to reflect this ethos.
When Howdens embarked on an Upgrade of their core SAP System they knew it was not something to be undertaken lightly. The core SAP Central System has been in place for over 10 years and is the central point of their entire system landscape. The Upgrade was from SAP 4.6 to ECC6, and would ensure Howdens are on the latest version, with the Upgrade providing a foundation for new functionality for the business and a new structure to manage the cost of maintenance.
Howdens began the journey of the Upgrade with a clear focus on quality and risk management. But also a focus on ensuring that IT, the business and end-users would all be able to benefit from the system according to their specific needs.
With the longevity of our trusted Howdens partnership, Experior had built up a deep knowledge of their system landscape, history and business objectives, which ensured Experior would be up to speed quickly. It also allowed us to address functionality, benefits and any potential issues early in the lifecycle.
The project was a huge success and the benefits to the business were highlighted by the impact on the business after go-live. “A ‘War Room’ was set up with a team of professionals ready to take all the calls from users after go-live, but by the third day after go-live everyone was able to go back to their BAU duties,” says Jonathan Milner, Howdens’ Test Manager. He adds: “A significant moment for me was on the Monday morning after go-live, I was sat within a team of financiers and they were all discussing their weekend – it was as if nothing had changed”. Still, months on, Howdens haven’t experienced any critical incidents and their internal teams have been redeployed on next generation projects.
Key benefits of taking the Experior approach for Howdens:
- Go-live with zero critical incidents
- Business back to BAU on Day One
- In first week after go-live, only 50 calls were made to the help desk – around half of which were resolved with over the phone advice
- Ability to go forward with new technology & enhanced overall platform for the future
- Experior transferred its domain knowledge to internal teams so they would not have to spend extra time and money on consultants
- Internal resources could be deployed onto next generation projects rather than contending with bugs and fixes
- Increased Readiness for Automation as and when needed as all regression tests are repeatable
We have many more examples of our work with companies such as Halfords, Anglian Water, Kingfisher and Twinings, here. As we say, do not just take our word for it.
Now, put the user at the heart of your success
Our clients choose to work with Experior for 3 simple, yet unrivalled reasons:
- We have a total focus on testing and exude experience to improve the user experience
- We bring agility and clear advantage for the business user experience
- We deliver smooth transition to new technologies and business models, acting as a trusted adviser to the CIO– we are known for our integrity and willingness to speak the unpalatable truth
We are brilliant at testing, but even better at delivering the user experiences you desire for your customers. We’d be very pleased to see if any of our expertise could be relevant to you.
Originally posted June 6, 2015, by Martin Mackay, Experior Group