Any business that utilizes an internal portal, intranet, or application strives to achieve a seamless and intuitive user experience to ensure personnel can improve communications, mitigate downtime and accomplish tasks more efficiently. Because the impact of UX for internal business needs derives its value from workforce optimization, the stakes to achieve a superb experience increase exponentially as businesses get larger.
For instance, consider the following example by Angela Schmeidel Randall in her article, “Calculating ROI on UX and Usability Projects”:
…if you optimize the UX on a series of screens so that what was once a 5 minute task is now a 2.5 minute task, then you’ve increased a person’s productivity by 100%. That’s huge. HUGE. If the company has 100 phone agents who have an average salary of $40,000 + benefits (~$8,000) (+ an unknown amount for overhead), you could either release or retask those agents on other activities with a savings of $2,4000,000/year.
Apply the same principle in the context of an internal application (not just those with consumer-facing entities), where organizations might have thousands of employees across the globe: a seemingly trivial design change that enables them to shave several minutes from a given task could net the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
- Streamline HR protocols and other administrative tasks by archiving critical documents.
- Optimize mobility to support remote workers.
- Increase communications capabilities between departments to bolster collaboration.
Internal systems can in fact be of universal importance in an enterprise setting. Based on a 2015 Gartner report, enterprises are clearly catching on to the value that these systems can bring to their organizations—by 2017, the demand for enterprise mobile applications alone will grow five times faster than in-house IT departments can deliver them.
With the potential value involved in designing and developing company intranets and portals (in which UX is a top consideration), coupled with the potential difficulty that in-house departments will have meeting the demand, the stakes are too high for enterprise decision makers to drag their feet on it.
How can design and development teams get ahead of the curve?
Get all executives moving as one
Maintaining a consistent message, or even finding common ground, can be challenging for larger corporations. A system that will be utilized by thousands of employees will invariably require input from a large number of business leaders that may not necessarily understand the needs of the other. Conducting research (which takes place during what UpTop calls the Discovery Phase) can and should include interviews with key players, surveys, a review of internal processes and a workshop/round table in which members of several teams come together to talk about their needs individually and within the organization as a whole. These activities will enable the construction of a unifying strategy that will satisfy the needs of all parties.
By utilizing numerous independent organizations (one for testing, one for design, one for development, etc.) or using internal teams that work in silos can be problematic for a number of reasons.
Trying to get disjointed teams (whether internal or external) to function side by side if they’re not used to it can create a slower flow of work—particularly if a certain aspect must be reworked and sent back down the chain of command.
This ‘slow down’ and working in silos generally happens when projects and organizations follow a Waterfall Methodology (versus the more flexible and collaborative approach of Agile). Not only does this have a greater chance at slowing time to market, but these projects also have a stronger chance of creating a disjointed final product.
Bolster end-user buy-in
The challenge of bolstering employee buy-in comes down to transforming the organization’s goals into a user experience that makes work functions simpler and more intuitive. Unfortunately, many enterprises are failing to meet the needs of their employees.
According to Boston Technology, 80 percent of enterprise mobile apps are abandoned after their first use. 64 percent of respondents cited a poor user experience as the reason for rarely using enterprise mobile applications. Low adoption rates will fracture interactions between employees and slow vital processes that require collaboration – the very thing that these apps are trying to encourage.
By conducting research at the beginning of the project that is specifically related to the needs of the end user, the design and dev teams can create a product that resonates best with them.
Provide a long-term strategy
Enterprise UX – whether it’s a portal, intranet or business intelligence dashboard – isn’t complete on launch day. Internal projects too often fall to the bottom of an organization’s list and can quickly suffer from decay. In order to keep efficiency at the top of the funnel and make sure employees are using the system long after launch, it’s best to create a long term strategy that includes continuous user testing, metric tracking and analysis that determines the effectiveness of its functions.
Planning for the long-term upfront will allow for a steadier rollout of new features and iterations, making the process simpler and more cost-effective down the road.