As business value increasingly moves to the interface we need new models of how we describe and measure value.
In the 2012 Apple vs. Samsung judgment in the United States, “93% of the damages were related to design patents that define the iOS user experience,” according to Robert Fabricant, Vice President of Creative for frog, a design company. Fabricant cites a number of other examples in his article “Scaling Your UX Strategy” for Harvard Business Review, to prove that making life simple for customers is now big business.
The Web is increasingly where many customers live today and making the Web simple and useful is big business indeed. And yet in our survey of over 1,000 web professionals (results to be published February 7) the biggest challenges by far are lack of management engagement and a lack of resources.
In a substantial number of organizations, management — particularly senior management — is still disengaged from the Web. A lot of managers do not take the Web seriously. They don’t think strategically about it. If they do think about it they think about technology; buying a new content management system or portal. But they rarely focus on helping simplify the customer’s life. When it comes to employees there is a near-contempt for the idea that part of a manager’s job is making it easier for employees to do theirs.
Managers are driven by agendas and their own objectives. They need to tell employees certain things, get them to do certain things. Managers often come up with jargon and branding for a new initiative they are responsible for. They do this so as to have something specifically associated with them that they can then show to their other manager peers. They launch projects to get either employees or customers to understand and engage with this new jargon. Rarely does this work but managers keep doing it because they are measured based on what they create.
The measurement of inputs, of things created and things done, is useful, but it is not the whole picture. Most organizations have a deep culture of production. “Look what I have produced. What have you produced?” But in an information overloaded world, production is often the problem. A proliferation of new projects, products, features, content, often leads to more complexity, rather than more simplicity.
Delivering more simplicity for customers often means doing less but doing it much better. And it means measuring outcomes, not inputs. You can’t measure simplicity by using traditional measures of production. Nor can you measure simplicity based on some internal judgment. And it can be just as dangerous to ask customers whether something is simple or not. You measure simplicity based on customer use. You observe outcomes. You measure your customers’ ability to complete top tasks.
We are in a new customer-centered world; the metrics of success must be focused on the customer not the organization. It’s not easy to change the model of management but change it we must. We must keep presenting outcome-based metrics, keep championing simplicity for the customer because that’s where the value lies. And despite all the challenges this is a truly exciting time where what we do can make a real difference. We just need to stay the course.
About the Author
Gerry McGovern, a content management author and consultant, has spoken, written and consulted extensively on writing for the web and web content management issues since 1994. His latest book is titled The Stranger's Long Neck: How to Deliver What Your Customers Really Want Online.
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