This is an electronic world, where personal and business lives are conducted across networks and in software. In business that makes IT one of the most important functions, as it’s the hub for all work. If it’s not working well, no one is working well.
That reflects into all aspects of the working day, and it means that employee retention, engagement and experience is now as much a responsibility for IT as it is for HR and the rest of the business. If IT doesn’t take user experience into account in everything it does, users will respond accordingly, to the detriment of the business.
Digital transformations change the relationships between users and technology, with more and more interactions happening online. Users might not be aware of issues or problems in the underlying technology stack, but they are aware when they’re unable to do the work they need to do. Adding digital experience management tooling to a business’ IT platform provides information that traditional monitoring tools miss, with a focus on making users’ experiences better.
Keeping employees happy, productive, efficient and working for you rather than the competition is key to company success. It’s the latest place to look for competitive advantage, and it’s not only a job for managers and the HR team. With software at the heart of every business process, IT has as much responsibility to deliver experiences that drive employee engagement, retention and productivity.
Comic strips have often portrayed IT departments as the place where people say “No”. Like all humor there’s a kernel of truth in that depiction. It’s time to rethink that stereotype, moving from that “no” to a philosophy of “stop gatekeeping, start supporting.” There’s no place for any roadblocks in the modern business environment, and IT needs to support employees as much as it supports software. Instead of thinking of users as a time sink that get in the way, IT departments need to consider them as a resource that can make their jobs easier, remembering that if IT is not helping users then they’re not able to do their jobs effectively, affecting revenue streams.
What does that changed relationship look like? For IT it’s not about turning off application and operating system features. Acting as a gatekeeper may feel like something is being done, but it’s much less valuable than exploring and learning new features and tools. Supporting them empowers users, encouraging them to get the most from the tools they’re using. Time that’s no longer spent building group policies to lock down applications, is time that’s better spent developing and deploying new applications and services.
Changing their relationship with employees requires changing many of the ways that IT departments work; moving them to more modern practices. Instead of waiting for users to call help desks with problems, IT should take advantage of the current generation of monitoring and observability tools to be proactive. It should be using digital experience management tools to look for problems before they become visible, offering support and fixes before users even notice issues. It’s about making things easier for IT by making things easier for the user. For example, as more and more meetings go online, providing proactive diagnosis and tuning of conference call tools like Skype for Business, using digital experience management to make sure that users are connected and communicating rather than waiting for software to work.
It’s important to remember to avoid the perils of taking a one-size-fits-all approach to IT. Not all users are the same. In any business there’s a mix of front line, back office, full time, remote, and part-time employees as well as contractors, all of whom are different ages and of varying levels of experience. They don’t all need the same solution; for one thing they rarely have the same set of installed applications on the same hardware. Everyone uses different tools to stay productive and engaged. It’s important to spend time doing user research on your own organization, much like a development team researching an application’s users. IT departments need to find what employees need to do, what they need to deliver, and then support them in how they want to work.
Supporting work requires reaching outside the traditional IT departmental responsibilities. A modern approach to work must consider elements like the office environment, interactions between users and the overall workflow, as well as the tools they need for their job. It’s an approach that requires treating users as individuals, not cogs, grasping their strengths and weaknesses in a way that enables the business to make effective use of their skills, and using a new generation of tooling to monitor and prioritize their digital experiences.
Making the shift to becoming a proactive IT organisation requires a new set of tools and processes. Much like the way that modern development uses a continuous integration/continuous delivery pipeline, it needs an analytical listening approach to working with employees. That can include everything from involving users in the application design process, where their role as stakeholders is made explicit, to stepping outside the business environment completely to see what’s being said on employee-driven review sites like Glassdoor.
Developers have tools that help gather requirements and bug reports. IT departments need something similar, with a focus on informal channels that can surface minor issues that might not otherwise be reported. That’s where digital experience management tools come in. IT needs metrics to know what it can change, and to show that those changes have the effects you want.
Business success depends as much on its people and culture as it does on tools and technologies. By changing to a collaborative approach, the experience IT delivers and supports can make the people happier and the culture better, all adding up to delivering better outcomes for the business.
About the Author:
Born on the Channel Island of Jersey, Simon Bisson moved to the UK to attend the University of Bath where he studied electrical and electronic engineering. Since then a varied career has included being part of the team building the world’s first solid state 30KW HF radio transmitter, writing electromagnetic modelling software for railguns, and testing the first ADSL equipment in the UK. He also built one the UK’s first national ISPs, before spending several years developing architectures for large online services for many major brands. For the last decade he’s been a freelance writer, specialising in enterprise technologies and development. He works with his wife and writing partner Mary Branscombe from a small house in south west London, or from anywhere there’s a Wi-Fi signal and a place for a laptop.