Mark Armstrong, VP and MD EMEA at digital transformation firm Progress, talks about the importance of keeping the user in mind when upgrading a firm's IT systems.
We are a self-confessed smartphone society. Sometimes it seems we enjoy spending more time looking at our phones than one another, spending at least two hours a day looking at the screen in our hands.
Mobile technology has shaken up every industry, connectivity changing the way we work, rest and play. Just a few months ago, the Mobile World Congress – the premier meeting place of the industry’s leading lights – proclaimed ‘Mobile is Everywhere’.
Yet, sometimes it feels like there is a bit too much technology for technology’s sake. There’s a desperate effort to stuff everything full of new settings and functions without ever really thinking if it helps the user. When the dust settles, who needs technology that is not user-friendly?
It’s all about the user
Innovation is about speed; short product lifecycles require fast innovation. If you don’t market your innovation first then the person next to you will; you snooze you lose. Between the ‘snazziest of all’ features and the ‘next killer app’, it is therefore easy to forget that real people will ultimately use your product.
They are the mobile users and according to the statistics they are everywhere. These are your audience and they will judge your innovation harshly if it fails to do what they want it to, throwing at the back of the cupboard with the Minidisc, Beta Max and N-Gage.
Every business, regardless of its size needs to know its customer base inside out. Customer intelligence is fundamental in identifying which features your customers love using on your products and get new customers to buy it.
It’s important to remember that the feature is a means to an end – a good feature or function solves a problem or meets a need. These are the ones that sell products and keep customers coming back. If we look at the early days of apps. It isn’t the iBeers so much as the Evernotes which won over customers. Mobile users ‘talk’ a lot to businesses about their likes and dislikes. Learn to listen to them and incorporate their feedback in your product design.
Be spot on: Focus on user experience
As mobile users we are savvy and we are demanding. We are also constantly bombarded with the ‘next big thing’ that will change our world. As such, we have developed filtering systems to spot the products and services that we feel would add value and isolate them from the ‘noise’. User experience has become a key differentiator of the ‘good stuff’ from the ‘noise’.
First and foremost, businesses need to understand what user experience really is. The point here is to think through the entire user experience, instead of just focusing on one aspect ie. web-app or mobile app. You need to consider how users should or would want to interact with the application across different devices. This means taking advantage of tools and solutions that create consistent and personalised experiences across whatever screen is being used and making sure all the great features run seamlessly.
In other words: are the core functions of the product fit for purpose? Does the system allow the user to do things easily and efficiently? Is it visually attractive and engaging? And perhaps most importantly, what is its added-value?
Think about the big picture
User experience is the crux of digital transformation. We often hear that CIOs or Digital Information Officers (DIOs) drive digital transformation in an organisation. That is only side of the coin. The other side is the user – and they are the ones who really should dictate the direction of product development.
Any good digital transformation strategy will run in tandem with the development of technology for the user alongside user feedback, testing and a systems management programme to educate the users on the benefit of the final technology product. This means that there are no plug and play solutions for knowing what will work and what needs to be changed. Nailing the user experience, however, will be the defining race for your business.
About the author
Mark Armstrong is VP and MD EMEA at digital transformation firm Progress.