Too often, technology solutions for a business are designed without fully taking into consideration the people (both inside and outside an organization) who will use them and the environment in which they will be experienced.
Asking employees and customers to conform and adjust their behavior to fit a product or process may appear to be the easiest path forward, but it typically leads to user frustration, poor customer experiences and resistance to adopting the new system — all leading to business inefficiencies.
For solutions to take hold, they must be rooted in empathy and compassion for the very people who will be using and supporting them. Their design must be human-centered. Taking a human-centered design approach means leading with people’s wants, needs and behavior; developing a deep understanding of tasks, work flow, culture, environments and technology and ensuring users are involved throughout the design process.
What that means is that every design decision is made with the question in mind: “Does this make sense from a user’s perspective?” For example, if a company were designing a coffeemaker, where should the power button be placed? Should it go on the top, left side, bottom or right? Should it make a click noise when pushed in or more of a pop sound? Should a light go on when the button has been successfully pushed all the way or is the sound enough?
These are a lot of questions to be asking about a simple on/off button. But they’re important questions to have in mind (and ultimately answer) to ensure that the user ultimately has a product that works effectively, intuitively and beautifully.
If the process of human-centered design, which utilizes the user’s point of view when developing a solution to a problem, is implemented properly as a problem-solving tool, the results can be far-reaching. Not only will clients be happier with their products’ usability and consumers be happier with their decisions to purchase a product or service, but employees will also be more satisfied working for a company that takes into consideration the actual people they are creating solutions for.
A work environment that embraces and promotes empathy and understanding in its culture leads to an increase in employee retention and recruitment. Everyone wants to feel like they are making a difference. And at a company where peoples’ wants, wishes, and needs are taken into consideration happy wheels demo when developing a product or service, employees truly are.
Would you rather stay with a company that cares deeply and holistically or one that focuses only on profit margin? The answer would be seemingly obvious.
Time after time, I’ve seen companies, from startups to vast institutions, invest in the latest technology believing that it will solve any and all business challenges, the proverbial silver bullet.
What they’re missing is this: Success isn’t generated by technology, it is created by people. Take the time to deeply understand the motivations, needs, wants and preferences of all stakeholders, employees, customers, investors and constituents at a human level and success will follow.
Your business is growing, demand is high, and you find your customer relationship management and enterprise resource planning systems aren’t keeping pace. Your salespeople aren’t able to provide the on-the-spot quotes needed, as questions about inventory and pricing need to be answered by a trip back to the office and a look at separate systems, none of which are “talking” to each other. What’s needed: an answer to a mission-critical question that touches on all major operational components of your business:
“How can we provide the most efficient response to opportunities that present themselves?”
A traditional approach might be to re-examine each component of your technology – to invest in the latest customer-relationship management or enterprise systems. A human-centered design approach would be an in-depth assessment of your people, processes culture and technologies across your ecosystem, how they integrate with one another and most importantly, how they support customer engagement.
Are your systems meeting your employees’ needs to create and nurture customer relationships? If not, what needs precisely are going unmet? What needs do you predict moving forward, and how can you make sure your technologies are scalable and sustainable to meet those needs?
The final answer may well be to customize your existing systems, based on feedback from the employees who use them and the needs of customers and prospects. The human-centered design approach to figuring this out: people first, process second. Only after those two elements are fully understood and technology third, you can create elegant human solutions.