Your systems are usable right? They have great user interfaces that are a pleasure to use, everyone loves using them. But what about your business’ usability? For the end users, your employees, how usable is your business? What is the user experience like? If the user experience is bad workers are wasting their time trying to figure how to get work done. If the user experience is good workers are spending their time innovating and delivering the organisation’s goals and objectives.
So how does one make business ‘usable’? In his book, “The Design of Everyday Things”, Donald Norman sets out some simple principles for designers. 1) Provide a conceptual model, 2) make features visible, 3) map actions to features and 4) provide feedback. A conceptual model should provide a framework for what happens when and why. Sound familiar? The conceptual model for business is locked up in the process documentation, manuals and procedures that are common place within most organizations. The problem is that for the conceptual model to be effective it cannot be too detailed, overly complicated or simply unrecognisable to the user that needs it. And this is exactly the problem with much of the process documentation that is captured today. It is not created with the end user in mind unless the end user is considered to be a system or analyst. Care is not taken to provide just the right amount of information to the user completing the tasks.
Humans are intelligent creatures; they don’t need to be told exactly how to perform an action every time they do it. They need a reminder, a framework in which they can place themselves and act to produce a desired outcome. Overly detailed and complicated documentation will simply serve to confuse and frustrate the user. Thought must be given to the level of information required for that person to perform their tasks efficiently. It’s probably less detail than you think. Some areas may need more detail than others. Some processes may be highly regulated while others are completed infrequently or by unskilled labour. There’s a chance that these will need more detail but even then don’t overwhelm the user.
Make the features that make up your business, visible. These are the process documentation, the various systems and tools required by users to complete their work. Think about where the documentation is held today, some in the BPMS, some in the training system, some is on your hard drive and in various intranet and shared stores. Creating a portal and listing everything in it does not make it visible.
The conceptual model needs to be delivered to the user in context. It needs to be easy to locate. Some form of tagging is useful based on a taxonomy that is easily recognisable to the users. When the content is delivered to the user it should not just reference the system to be used it should link the user directly to it. This is about mapping what needs to be done to the tools required to do it.
Finally provide feedback to the users. Instant feedback should be provided when systems are launched, when workflows are kicked of or when data is committed. Holistic feedback should be given through real time metrics displayed in the context of the process.
I believe that improving your organization’s usability is perhaps one of the most important things you can do with regards to efficiency. It also supports the other two aspects of ‘social’ I described in a previous post. Combining all these approaches can make BPM an essential component of your social strategy.