Why senior managers should care about user experience

Cor Winkler Prins, CEO, 4me.

Deploying a technology system is expensive. It takes a lot of time, effort and negotiation with disparate company systems to successfully establish a new business system. A new enterprise resource planning system can cost millions to procure. Even seemingly low-cost options, such as software-as-a-service options, attract expenses through integration, licensing and special features.

New business technology systems are treated as costly investments that must work. Typically, employees are expected to toe the line. Yet, up to 70% of digital transformation projects fail to meet expectations, according to McKinsey. How much of that failure is due to friction with the system's users?

"I'm always really surprised that senior management doesn’t consider the usability of the services they provide to their employees," says Cor Winkler Prins, CEO of IT service management system vendor 4me. "They may spend a fortune on a new system, which can make perfect sense. Their organisation may need this tool. But they also spend a ton of money recruiting people and training them to use the system. And these people may find that they hate working with it."

The unseen cost of employee frustration

Deploying new systems is expensive, but so is recruitment. Recruitment service Glassdoor estimates that it costs the average US business $4 000 and 52 days to recruit a new employee. Though these costs don't necessarily match a new business system, they certainly erode the latter's value if there is friction between employees and their tools.

"Employees are generally most happy at their work when they are able to perform well and they're in this flow. If they go home at the end of the day and they feel like they've accomplished a lot for the company, they feel fulfilled."

But if they have to stare at a spinning icon or hourglass while the software processes something, if they struggle to make sense of multiple tabs or features, if they can't find the data they need, or if the system doesn't reflect the processes they should be using, that is a concern. A prominent financial manager once noted that he could see when his team is under pressure because they drop the expensive business system and load up spreadsheets.

How do we stop business systems from becoming white elephants? We must take better note of user experiences.

The value of knowing user experiences

"If employees are frustrated, that's an opportunity to improve things," says Winkler Prins. "Some managers may see these employees as people who whine a lot. Yes, there are the chronic complainers who will never be happy. But the majority of people just want to do their jobs well."

It's a surprisingly simple issue to solve - we do it all the time. We leave five-star reviews on e-commerce sites, app stores and booking services. If companies enable employees to rate their digital tools, it can expose those friction areas that erode value and productivity. Such metrics could be part of a standard service level agreement (SLA) report.

"When you have this list of services, you see how well they're doing against their SLA targets. You see how much they cost and if they perform to expectation. Wouldn't it be useful for management to also see whether people actually appreciate working with the tools that the organisation asks them to work with?"

Using an IT service management (ITSM) platform service, employees can quickly express their approval or grievance with a five-star review. Management doesn't have to scrutinise every single complaint: if something averages four to five stars, then it's doing fine. But if it scores only one to two stars, it should be investigated.

"I think companies overlook this because they focus on the cost of the business systems. But there is a bigger cost if you're paying employees to sit around in frustration. It's bad for the bottom line. If you pay a little attention to user experience, you will have less staff turnover and find it easier to attract better talent. That saves a ton of money."

Companies spend a lot of energy wondering if customers have a satisfying experience, yet paradoxically overlook employee experience. Ask them about how satisfied they are with the different services they use and it is likely you’ll find a few that need to be improved or replaced to avoid losing your best people.

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