learning from consumer products: data exhaust and the potential for better ux (sam ladner at...
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Learning from Consumer ProductsData Exhaust and the Potential for Better Enterprise UXSam Ladner, Phd
Hi everyone, thanks for coming. Today Im going to take a particular slice of designing for everybody. When we design for consumers, everybody can be market segments, people in different geographies or cultures. When we design for the workplace, everybody means bosses and workers. This is the lens Im going to take to talk about enterprise UX, that the enterprise is workplace, but we can look to consumer products to help us design. How?1
Researching people, not tech
Sometime in 1985, Shoshanna Zuboff walked into an insurance office. She was there to study how office workers were coping with the new technologies that insurance companies had started been installing in their back offices. She suspected there was a huge shift happening in office work, and she was right. At the time, insurance companies and banks were rapidly adopting back-office technologies that allowed them to digitize their paper records. This was more than just an exercise in archiving; financial services companies were actually transforming their core competencies as businesses. The digitization effort transformed insurance companies from paper managers to data managers. This brought the potential to analyze their customers records in entirely new ways. Cumbersome, manual processes like processing cheques or making claims payments were beginning to be automatic.
How did they get chained to their desks?
Unsurprisingly, this profoundly transformed the working experience of insurance workers. A typical UX research project might miss this important shift. UX research in the enterprise means understanding the nature of the work, not just the nature of technology. Zuboff did this. She focused on the workers. What was changing for them? And what role did the software play in those changes? Zuboff found that daily routines were completely changing for these insurance workers. They use to flit around the building, carrying paper files, and checking with colleagues in quick, face-to-face conversations. Now, they sit at their desks, entering data into digital files, and staring at their screens. Zuboff discovered that they were increasingly chained to the desk inputting, checking, and analyzing data. This shift was significant. What Zuboff was witnessing was the result of the early forays into enterprise UX. What she learned was that there was no U in UX at that time. Users like these office workers, were not customers. No one seemed to care that their work was boring, alienating, and isolating. All anyone seemed to care about was that these workers files were now instantly available, digitally manipulatable, and saved the company time and space. This is where enterprise software comes from. At the time, we called it groupware. We talked about increasing collaboration and making communication instantaneous. But what we didnt talk about was how users were feeling about these tools. We didnt talk about the fact they actually enjoyed walking around the office to talk to people, and that they found it a very efficient and productive way to communicate.
Who would benefit from automatic meeting scheduling? The person who calls the meeting: in general, a manager would benefit. But who would have to do additional work to make the application succeed? The subordinates.SourceJ. Grudin, Why CSCW Applications Fail: Problems in The Design And Evaluation of Organizational Interfaces, in Proceedings of the 1988 ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, 1988, pp. 8593.
How many of you use a Filofax? A desktop paper calendar? A hanging wall calendar? No body? Okay. Would it surprise you to learn that digital calendaring was expected to be a total flop? That we thought no one would actually use it? Who would benefit from automatic meeting scheduling? The person who calls the meeting: in general, a manager would benefit. But who would have to do additional work to make the application succeed? The subordinates.This quote reminds us of what puts the enterprise in enterprise UX. Enterprises are workplaces. We know that workplaces have unique features to them that absolutely affect how people use software. When you design for workplaces, you must confront the tension of a workplace. Im not going to tell you that data exhaust is a silver bullet for great enterprise UX. Im not going to tell you that just do this one thing and you can fix enterprise software forever. No. Instead, Im going to tell you the reality of todays workplaces. Im going to point out an inconvenient truth that we routinely fail to acknowledge in our enterprise design processes. And then, Im going to give you a way to be optimistic about that reality. That inconvenient truth is, as Jonathan pointed out in this quote, that be that customers are not users in enterprise UX. Customers buy our software, and users use it. But is all productivity benefit goes to CUSTOMERS (i.e., bosses) then users will not use the tool. They simply will not. Ill unpack what this means and talk about how we can actually design WITH this constraint.
In whose interests?
Okay, let me tell you what Jonathan was crowing about. He looked at the case of the digital calendar. This seemed like the thorniest problem in workplace software: the only way to get maximum benefit from the digital calendar is to have everyone use it and share their calendar with everyone else. But in gods name would anyone do that?What, so you bosses can check up on you at any time? So people can see how busy you are? I mean, why would you? Jonathan didnt use the words gold bricking or soldiering, but this is essentially what he was talking about. Sociologists who studied the workplace had shown (and continue to show) that workers may appear to be compliant with company policies, but they have any number of ways of resisting. Slowing down the line. Taking your time. Intentionally hiding parts or supplies. Refusing to follow official policy and doing things just their own way. This continues today in the digital world. The reality is workers resist things they dont like.And if they dont like digital calendars, they wont use them. It might not be overtly obvious, but its there. Workers have a measure of influence in workplaces that most of us dont recognize. Peter Drucker captured this nicely when he said culture eats strategy for breakfast. What he was saying is that the way things are done can trump any CEOs plan.So if this is the reaction to the tool, you can see there will be a problem with widespread adoption. Or there was. Clearly something happened between now and then. Weve all got digital calendars now. We use them. What happened?
Only 13% of workers are actively engaged at work2/3 of workers all over the worlds are overwhelmed. Nearly 1 in 4 American workers do not trust their employers1/3 feel stressed out in a typical daySourcesHarter and A. Adkins, Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers, Gallup Business Journal, no. April, 2015.Deloitte Consulting, Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce, New York, NY, 2014.S. Bethune, Employee Distrust is Pervasive in U.S. Workforce, American Psychological Association, 2014. .
The essential problem that enterprise software designers fail to realize over and over again is that the workplace is a seething cauldron of anger and deceit, of lies and silences, of alliances and betrayal. The workplace is not the utopia we see in stock photos. It can be a den of vipers. We as designers of workplace technologies, must recognize this fact. Most work today is a dreary, anxiety-infused exercise. Instead of enhancing productivity much less actually delighting them the products we in this room create often make an unfulfilling workday downright awful. Workplaces are not democracies. They are run often by fiat. Its no wonder that Gallup recently found that only 13% of workers are actively engaged at work. Deloitte consulting recently found that 2/3 of workers all over the worlds are overwhelmed.  Nearly 1 in 4 American workers do not trust their employers. One third are feel stressed out during a typical day. . Technology has a lot to do with it.
J. Harter and A. Adkins, Employees Want a Lot More From Their Managers, Gallup Business Journal, no. April, 2015.Deloitte Consulting, Global Human Capital Trends 2014: Engaging the 21st Century Workforce, New York, NY, 2014.S. Bethune, Employee Distrust is Pervasive in U.S. Workforce, American Psychological Association, 2014. .
Technostress>10 mobile apps for employees5:1 demand for mobile supply
Our technologies all too often reinforce this nasty experience. In fact, social scientists have a word for this experience: technostress.Technostress was coined in 1984 by Craig Brod. He was referring to challenge workers have when they cannot adapt to using computers. Its no coincidence that Brod was writing around the time that Zuboff was researching workplaces. Yet Jonathans truth still seems hard for many enterprise software designers to understand. We continue to develop features like the ability to wipe devices remotely when a user loses credentials. We invest time into scaling permissioning systems and other mechanisms of control.We are so busy making tools for enterprise CUSTOMERS that we have left a huge unmet need from users. Gartner Research has found that the majority of enterprises have created less than 10 mobile apps for their employees, and a significant minority have released zero. CIO magazine notes that there is a massive pent up demand for such apps, as much as 5 to 1 ratio of demand versus supply. They argue that too many enterprise apps fail because theyre pushed out too quickly. Companies want tha