Thinking Consumers First – Usability Rules!

By Bert Sandie posted 06-07-2010 14:38


“Do you know the employees at your company?”  Success in deploying, adoption and usage of Enterprise 2.0 (E2.0) solutions is highly dependent on one key factor. That factor is the employees at your company.

In today’s complex work environments, we need to have tremendous insight about our employee’s motivations, behaviors and needs in the workplace to fully understand what they like and hate about our E2.0 solutions. So how do we do this?

Luckily, we have a number of resources available to aid in evaluating the effectiveness of our E2.0 solutions including:

  • Employee Surveys
  • Usability and Human Factors Analysis Techniques, and
  • Analytics and Telemetry

Using this three-pronged approach allows for a mix of subjective and objectives measures to be collected that help provide a 360-degree view to understanding employee usage of E2.0 solutions.

Employee surveys are a fast and effective mechanism to collect data from employees. Using a well thought-out mix of open and closed ended questions can provide an excellent understanding of why and what employee think and feel about the solutions. A couple of best practices when surveying employees are:

  • Survey two to four times a year against a partial set of your consumers (i.e. 4 surveys in a year each hitting 25% of the population) as this allows constant feedback. As the solutions mature and there is less change then survey less.
  • Ask well-thought out questions that will help make decisions on usage, adoption, features and functionality. For example, ask employees to stack rank features/functionality for a future release based on a provided list; and provide an open-ended question asking for the top feature/functionality they need and why. This provides a nice balance in collecting meaningful feedback.
  • Keep the survey to 5 to 10 minutes in length and advertize that you will randomly reward a few people via a draw for participating/completing the survey.
  • Ensure that you receive enough responses to make the data statistically meaningful. Analyze the data to draw some conclusions and act on them quickly to show responsiveness in reacting to the needs of the users.

Usability and human factor analysis techniques focus on observing application usage of employees and then using subsequent interviews to gain a deeper understanding of their actions and behaviors. Videotaping employees as they use the application in their normal day-to-day activities leads to great insight on usage patterns.  Asking employees to complete a set of core scenarios watching for patterns including roadblocks, emotional reaction (i.e. confusion, satisfaction, frustration), ease of use, time to complete, desired result, etc. will aid in providing the best solution moving forward. The bottom line is: watch and listen to your users, iterate quickly on the top items to address their needs, rinse and repeat this cycle continuously.

Usability Lab Image

Figure 1 - Advanced Usability Lab

Telemetry can automatically track how, what and when employees use E2.0 solutions inside your company into a data set that can be analyzed on a regular basis. Using analytics, actual and trending behavior can be derived from the data.  For example, usage data can show that a specific location has a very low level of contributions. The resulting actions can then focus on driving a greater number of contributions from that location through user education, training, management support, etc.

Figure 2 – Example of Google Analytics

Here are a couple of great resources to expand your knowledge regarding how to think about consumers and how we provide world class solutions for them to be effective in the workplace:

As users become more sophisticated and experienced with using powerful E2.0 applications one of the most important deciding factors in what they prefer to use will be if it is designed with “consumer first” thinking.  Usability is the new defining factor in solution selection/usage in the workplace, so make informed decisions based on understanding how your employees use E2.0 to be more effective and efficient at work.

If you have any questions leave a comment or send me an email.

Cheers, Bert

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