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    Entries in Users (8)


    Revealing Complexity

    Probably the most significant barrier to user adoption of new workplace technology is that users don't see the personal benefit of adopting these technologies. This is the classic 'What's in it for me?' conundrum. While that subject is important and worthy of exploration, I won't be hitting that specific problem today. Instead, let's talk about what is likely the second-most important barrier to employee adoption of workplace technology, namely, that most enterprise technologies have provided (relatively) poor user experience and/or are just too complex for them to use intuitively.

    While enterprise technology companies have talked about, and some have actually delivered, better, more compelling, more consumer-like technology user experiences, even the most modern, best-designed applications eventually run into a common problem in that enterprise tools often require LOTS of data be input into them.

    It could be a new sales prospect being recorded in a CRM, a new supplier that needs to be set up in Procurement, or even a relatively simple matter of entering a new hire in the HRIS, all of these use cases while impacting disparate systems and organizational departments, have much more in common than we usually think. Each of these transactions requires (usually), a whole bunch of data fields to be populated with a whole bunch of data. And even in 2015, for many organizations the bulk of these myriad data elements have to be manually typed into the respective system form fields the old fashioned way - manually.

    And so since the makers of CRM and Supply Chain and HR technologies understand this reality, and like to be able to sell to customers the things they need to run their business operations, even the most modern, slick, mobile responsive, and really amazing looking enterprise solutions often and still have these kind of busy, kind of ugly, kind of tired looking data input forms in order to support these kinds of transactions. And while we might be tempted to look at these kinds of forms, (and the processes that make these 37 field data input forms necessary), as relics from an older, less awesome age, they still have a place in most organizations and in most modern technology solutions.

    Not every interaction with an enterprise technology can (or should) be reduced to a graphic or chart on a tablet, or a glanceable notification on your new Apple Watch. Sometimes, the hard and necessary work of getting relevant data (and lots of it) about customers, vendors, and employees into the enterprise tools that organizations rely upon is, still, kind of boring, kind of repetitive, and even kind of monotonous.

    But that is entirely ok, and should not be considered some kind of an indictment of the technology solution provider that has not figured out a way to make inputting 32 fields about a customer into some kind of a gorgeous 'swipe left' and 'swipe right' kind of user experience.  

    User Experience and what is good User Experience is highly variable and highly personal. And what usually constitutes great User Experience for the sales exec who wants to look at the Q3 funnel on her tablet is much, much different than what makes up great UX for a payroll entry clerk. We can't confuse them with each other.

    The best designed enterprise systems, of course, support both UX's and both kinds of users. The key is, I think, to have the system only reveal its fundamental complexity, and the form with 37 input fields, only to those people who really need them, and care about them, and help them see the 'What's in it for me?' as well as treating them and their role with respect.


    There's more to User Experience than usability

    Here is a quick take and a diagram on UX that I wanted to share on a cold, kind of snowy Wednesday in my part of Western NY, (and thankfully not too snowy, lake effect snow is a funny thing, one side of town can get buried in snow, while a mile away sees hardly anything at all).

    I was plowing through my Feedly last night, (while watching my Knicks fail, admirably however in Milwaukee), and I came across this really interesing piece on API design from the Nordic APIs site. 

    I know what you might be thinking: Really, you must have a terribly exciting life, reading about API design and watching basketball. And you would be right! It is terribly exciting. 

    You don't have to read the entire piece about API design, (I admit, it gets a little ponderous near the end if you are not really, really into APIs), but I wanted to share what I thought was the most interesting and perhaps relevant part of the piece, a diagram called the UX Honeycomb, originally developed by Semantic Studios. The diagram is meant to portray the facets or elements of User Experience, and as you will see, there is much more than 'usability' at play here.


    The point of the UX Honeycomb is to make sure that designers understand the various components that encompass UX, and to also emphasize the center element - 'Valuable'. So while for UX professionals, 'usability' remains important to overall UX, it is not by itself sufficient. And it is also a great reminder that the elements like 'useful', 'accessible', and perhaps most importantly for HR readers, 'credible' remain critical.

    And the way that the elements of the UX Honeycomb seem to have really close applicability to lots of what HR in general and HR technology projects in particular is the primary reason I wanted to share the diagram. Whether it is a traditional HR-led initiative like training, or performance coaching, or rolling out a employee wellness program, or a straight up HR systems implementation, evaluating your approach against these UX elements I think makes a ton of sense.

    Is what you are doing, or trying to get others to do, useful, usable, desirable, credible, valuable, etc.?

    I think you have to be able to check 'Yes' on just about every one of the elements on the UX Honeycomb no matter what the project is, in order to have a chance to capture the attention and the time of your users, employees, and leaders. I am going to keep the Honeycomb in mind moving forward, and I think you might want to as well.

    Anyway, that's it.

    Stay warm out there today.


    Minecraft for the Enterprise

    You probably have over the years heard various business-focused collaboration and knowledge-sharing software solutions like Yammer or Jive described as 'Facebook for the Enterprise.' The comparison was almost always more about the way that many of these business tools resembled Facebook in that they had a similar news or activity feed, had concepts like 'friending' or following, and possessed other features similar to Facebook like groups and in-app messaging. Over time these comparisons, and even that descriptive 'Facebook for the Enterprise' phrase seems to have fallen out of fashion.

    There are at lease two reasons I think for that, one being that the market for these enterprise collaboration tools has matured to the point where most corporate prospects understand the basics of what they do without having to invoke Facebook as a point of comparison or reference. The other reason, and this is totally my opinion, is that most of us have realized that almost nothing truly productive (in the classic organizational collaboration context) ever gets done on Facebook. By continuing to compare their much more serious minded tools to Facebook, the providers of these tools are basically saying 'Take a look at our software solution that will remind you of the single biggest distraction and time suck that has ever existed.' And that probably is not good for business in the long term.

    So since 'Facebook for the Enterprise' is seemingly drifting out to sea, I'd like to offer up an almost equally interesting and unexpected replacement - how about 'Minecraft for the Enterprise?'

    You probably are familiar with Minecraft from its massive popularity, and if you have children between the ages of about 8 and 18, it’s almost certain that they have at least experimented with the game. If you are not familiar, the simplest way is to think of the fame as a kind of virtual Lego, an open-ended world where the player can build, create their own worlds, engage in battle, and even farm. Minecraft is a true worldwide phenomenon, and part of its appeal to more serious players is the ability to modify (‘mod’) the game, adding new materials, monsters, and other elements to the basic game.

    These player developed (and shared) mods extend and enhance the game in many ways, and perhaps one of the most unusual, (and the one that could intrigue folks that design and develop enterprise systems), is the mod described in this post on the Salesforce developerForce blog titled Visualizing Salesforce Data... In Minecraft?

    In the piece the author and developer of a mod that essentially connects the classic Salesforce CRM system to a new Minecraft world, describes just how (and seemingly how simple), it was to not only visualize sales, accounts, contacts, and other classic CRM data inside the familiar to just about every 11 year old world of Minecraft.

    Check the video below, (email and RSS subscribers will need to click through) to see how your sales and sales funnel data looks rendered in Minecraft, and I will have a couple of comments afterwards.

    Pretty cool right?

    Re-set a sales status in Salesforce and boom - the corresponding lever in the Minecraft world that represents that status flips from up to down. Make the same type of change in Minecraft and the CRM is updated as well. Lose the sale and suddenly in Minecraft it gets dark and starts to rain. 

    You get the idea. And while it is a pretty basic kind of interface at least at first glance, I think what it suggests about the potential future of enterprise systems, gamification, and the eventual personalization of user experience is what is really interesting.

    Take the average Minecraft enthusiast and plop him or her in front of a Salesforce CRM screen and I am sure their eyes will begin to glaze over in about 30 seconds. In addition to the fact that it (and most other enterprise tools) just don't look very appealing to anyone, much less the generation that is growing up playing (and modding) Minecraft, the enterprise systems tend to be one size fits all. Beyond some simple personalizations like moving or renaming fields, significant modding is just not possible. And lastly like most mass appeal video games, playing Minecraft is simply fun. You can create, win rewards, defeat the bad guys, etc. Is 'playing' Salesforce ever fun?

    I love the idea of one day having the abiltiy to welcome a new user of an Enterprise system to the organization and giving them the option to engage with and interact with the system in the way that they feel most comfortable, productuive, and even fun.

    And I bet, most Salesforce admins would say they would be for anything that would encourage their users to keep their account information more up to date. 

    If updating the customer account status was as fun as playing Minecraft, I bet more of them would.

    And last thing, if you think the concept of 'Minecraft for the Enterprise' is silly, well, all I will say is that 'Facebook for the Enterprise' also seemed silly initially. Now, being social and collaborating on Facebook-like platforms is pretty mainstream. And we don't like that phrase any longer.

    Perhaps playing Minecraft as a proxy for interacting with HR, CRM, or Finance systems will be too be pretty mainstream one day.

    Have a great week!


    Things your employees don't care about

    Admission up front - this (brief) piece is a straight up rip-off homage to a post by Pete Warden titled 'Things users don't care about'. You should click over and check out Pete's list, from a technology service provider perspective, of things that a solution's users don't care about.  In case you don't click over to the post, here are just a few of these nuggets of insight on things users don't care about:

    How long you spent on it.

    How hard it was to implement.

    How amazing the next version will be.

    What you think they should be interested in.

    Whose fault the problems are.

    Fantastic stuff. And if you look across these examples, and several of the others Pete provides, it is pretty easy to discern the common themes. Namely, that users, customers, or employees from an HR service provider perspective, generally don't care about your problems. In IT it might be buggyDon't care. software, a difficult to manage supplier, or a lack of budget to procure new hardware or software. In sales it could be an inflexible pricing structure or an inability to promise a delivery.  And of course there are a million 'HR' problems that, mostly, your employees simply don't care about.

    Government immigration rules making it hard to get visas for the three foreign engineers?

    Don't care.

    Recruiting system doesn't talk to the Payroll system making your team do double entry of data?

    Don't care.

    The list of 'mandatory' job requirements for the open position I'm trying to fill is so long, it's making it impossible for you to deliver a deep slate of candidates?

    Don't care.

    (I admit at least on that last one, your hiring manager should care, but that doesn't mean she does.)

    Sure, in a perfect world and in an high-functioning, collaborative, 'Best Places to Work' kind of environment your problems as an internal service provider would actually resonate with your customers and employees. But most of us don't work in places like that.

    Even in really great organizations, IT or Legal or Auditing or HR are still often simply looked at as the necessary evils of doing business. The 'users' or customers might, and often probably do care about the needed outcomes you deliver, but not one bit about the myriad of struggles, travails, and long hours you have to spend to deliver those outcomes.

    It's the outcomes that matter, not what had to be overcome along the way. Within reason of course. Don't decide to go all Lance Armstrong on us.

    But truly, it's a Honey Badger world when you are overhead. And Honey Badger, as we all know, simply don't care. (link to the video you have seen a thousand times, but it remains NSFW).


    Who Bricked the Electric Car?

    You may have caught the story last week about Tesla, the maker of extremely high-end electric vehicles, (EVs), and the accusation that if the $100K Tesla Roadster's battery pack was allowed to drain all the way to zero, (basically to go completely dead), that the car could not be simply re-charged in the normal fashion, and that in fact the entire battery pack would have to be removed and replaced, (at $40K).

    This phenomenon, and already some are disputing how much of a real problem it presents, has been termed 'bricking', as in without the ability to operate the $100K Tesla has been effectively turned into a brick. A stylish one no doubt, but a brick nonetheless.  And having your $100K car essentially rendered useless without dropping another 40 large for the repair would have to classify as a bad day, and if indeed this is even a remote possibility, one would hope Tesla has taken adequate precautions and will look to improve the technology such that this kind of bricking either can't happen or really almost would never happen.

    But for now, it appears like at least the possibility for bricking exists, according to a follow-up piece in Engadget, the Tesla company (sort-of) acknowledged that a full battery drain would indeed 'brick' the car and issued the following statement:

    All automobiles require some level of owner care. For example, combustion vehicles require regular oil changes or the engine will be destroyed. Electric vehicles should be plugged in and charging when not in use for maximum performance. All batteries are subject to damage if the charge is kept at zero for long periods of time. However, Tesla avoids this problem in virtually all instances with numerous counter-measures. Tesla batteries can remain unplugged for weeks (or even months), without reaching zero state of charge. Owners of Roadster 2.0 and all subsequent Tesla products can request that their vehicle alert Tesla if SOC falls to a low level. All Tesla vehicles emit various visual and audible warnings if the battery pack falls below 5 percent SOC. Tesla provides extensive maintenance recommendations as part of the customer experience.

    Essentially Tesla is saying, 'Look, we sold you an incredible piece of technology, the most fabulous EV on the market. All you really need to do on your side is to not leave the car idle for months on end and forget to charge it up. And we will even offer to call you up to remind you to run out to the garage and plug in the thing in you forget. For months. Seem reasonable?'

    Probably pretty reasonable.  Tesla, like just about any other make of cars, gadgets, games, or even business systems at some stage arrives at the end point of their ability and responsibility to ensure that the consumer will have a great experience with their purchase, and won't actually do something really dumb with their new shiny object after they take it home.

    Over on Talented Apps last week, Meg Bear hit upon this point when she re-stated Meg's Law for Talent Management software development -

    It is the intention of our team to build excellent, usable software to optimize a well thought out talent strategy.  BUT if you suck, there is nothing we can do in software, to fix that for you. 

    And I am pretty sure Meg's Law could apply to Tesla as well.  I am sure it is their intention to build the best EV in the world, but if you suck, and you forget that an EV actually needs to be plugged in once in a while, we can't fix that for you. Or rather we can, but it will cost you $40K.

    Sadly, the organizations that Meg is referring to, the ones with the terrible talent strategy, can't get off that easy.