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The reality of bad Enterprise UX


I want to tackle a common gridlock I’ve repeatedly run into over the last 7-8 years working with Enterprise UX.

It happens when UX professionals try to convince Enterprise IT and Business people of the value of employee-facing UX. It goers something like this:

  • DESIGNER: “UX is paramount for user adoption in that it focusses on delivering systems that work for the employees so they can be as efficient in their day-to-day job and as such be more valuable to the business.”
  • IT or BUSINESS: “Well, that makes sense for our customer-facing apps, but we don’t need to focus on UX for our employees. It is their jobs, they get paid for it so they have to use what systems we provide. They don’t have a choice. “
  • DESIGNER: “But, if you provide your employees with a bad toolset, they won’t be as efficient as they can be.”
  • IT or BUSINESS: “We can fix that with training. Teach them how to operate the tools and teach them tricks on how to circumvent the tool to get the job done.”
  • DESIGNER: “But that doesn’t make them independently efficient or give them a tool set they like to use, which in turn makes them feel valued as an employee, which in turn increases employee satisfaction and retention.”
  • IT or BUSINESS: “It’s their job. They don’t have a choice.”
  • DESIGNER: “Yes they do, they can just leave.”¬†

And it is at this point the advocate for UX has lost the argument for two reasons:

  1. In the minds of the IT and the Business losing an employee is less of a pain than getting a system that interfaces well with their legacy IT. They do not have the company oversight over cost of losing an employee in terms of recruitment, training, skills etc. It is not factored into the equation.
  2. And reality is: Employees do not leave just because a work tool is inefficient!

What happens in reality is far worse

What I’ve seen happen in companies where the focus has been on technology rather than employee adoption and efficiency is quite simple and quite logical. You would do this… you might even have done this already.

If a tool (any tool, digital or not) doesn’t work for an employee, they will find a tool that does!

If you are a carpenter and you don’t have the right hammer, you might use a wrench… not a big deal.

If you are an employee and your digital toolset doesn’t work for collaboration, you might use a Facebook Group… or install some unsanctioned software… or use another tool that might not give the right people access, doesn’t scale, doesn’t back up etc.

And as a company that means you end up with a spaghetti mess of a shadow IT system that is disconnected, unsupported, not scalable and can even be dangerous  with the risk of loss of data or in worst case scenario expose sensitive company data to the wrong people internally or externally.

How to tackle the conversation

There is no easy answer to how you deal with the conversation above. IT and Business have been thoroughly drilled with the importance of IT compatibility that it has a disproportionate focus. It is important. Absolutely. But installing a system that is compatible with IT and not compatible with the humans who have to work with it, is a recipe for failure.

I’ll point to two resources I’ve found helpful in these conversations:

  • The ROI of User Experience by Susan Weinschenk, which has some fantastic stats around the cost of wasted IT efforts when not focusing on User Experience.
  • ISO 9241-11 Definition of Usability, which gives you two benefits: First of all you get to build your argument on an ISO standard rather than coming across as a personal opinion. This is powerful for waking people up. Second, the Efficiency, Effectiveness, Satisfaction definition provides a great framework for mapping values important to a specific company and a specific set of users, in this case employees.

Advocating Enterprise UX is an uphill battle, but it is getting an increasing amount of focus due to the quite simple and logical business value.

I can recommend the “ENTERPRISE UX INDUSTRY REPORT 2017-2018” from UXpin for further reading on the subject.


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