Too often a system is changed or upgraded to make things easier for the business at the expense of the people who use the system. I’ve visited clients and overheard staff complaining how a system change made their life harder, while one room over, management is touting the new solution as more powerful and easier to use.
Management makes those claims because they are focused on the benefits to the back-office, not on the potential impact for those who use the system. Sometimes management truly believes the new system is intuitive and only needs a one-page explainer. Other times the desire to solve a back-office problem leaves workers behind. When rushing to improve things in an organization, making sure the change improves things for everyone is key.
A New System With the Best of Intentions ...
A client was very excited about a new system they were rolling out. They had found a cloud provider that would close the gap in managing their different employee benefits. The benefit request process would be easier to explain. Most importantly, the back office would have a dramatically easier time managing the benefits process.
It completely bombed.
While integrated with all the back-office systems, the new app wasn’t well integrated with how employees used their benefits. There were gaps for some employees. Many had to transition from one benefit request process to multiple processes. The shift from one process to two different processes made things that much harder for employees to take advantage of their benefits.
Related Article: Sound Familiar? 4 Signs Your Employee Experience Needs Work
Who Does the Software Serve?
The problem here is the back-office staff forgot who the client was. It wasn’t HR or Finance. It was the employees. By not working with them, huge gaps went unnoticed. The confusion that followed negatively impacted some employees who were unable to figure out the new benefit process before the enrollment deadline.
This is a common problem. Too often organizations focus on making things easier for them without considering the impact on the customer base. Of course organizations should look to improve their back-end processes. But they should not look to improve those processes to the detriment of the customer, which in this case was their employees.
Related Article: User Experience Design Shouldn't Happen in Isolation
What Options Are There?
Organizations must start with an understanding of how everyone uses the current system. If this isn't clear from usage data, go to the source and observe. A useful exercise at any time, organizations need to talk to a wide variety of customers to identify the different ways they use the system.
Communication is also key. Proactively informing people of the change is critical. This includes sharing what will change for that individual and why it will improve things for them. No need to share how it will improve back-office systems — people don’t care (unless they work in the back office). Take the time to identify active users and reach out if it looks like they are having challenges with the change.
Most importantly, don’t roll out a big change just before a majority of them are leaving for a holiday. One company rolled out a new expense system with a “streamlined” interface shortly before the new year, which made completing expenses in time for the year-end deadlines and before vacations began interesting to say the least.
Getting things out of the way before your vacation is great. Foisting them off on your staff just before you leave the office is not great.
Related Article: Providing Employees Flexibility in Workplace Tools Doesn't Mean It's a Free-For-All
User Experience Matters Everywhere
Odds are you've lived through a story like the ones above. I, colleagues, industry friends and random conference attendees have all shared similar stories over the years — usually as a rant over drinks. IT pushes a change at the bequest of HR or Finance that makes something harder to do. My favorite was the new expense interface that "streamlined" the attaching of receipts by pushing it off to a separate, hard-to-find screen.
These things matter to your staff just as much as the customer's user experience matters in the systems you deliver to them. You want to retain customers and staff as both are much easier to keep than to replace. Spend time on the user experience for every system, not just the ones you place out on the web.
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