Understanding Users – Fact or Fiction?

Organisations everywhere are moving towards a “User Centric” philosophy, not only in IT provision, but the full spectrum of user engagement and enablement.  Consumerisation has bred new levels of user expectation, and the “SMAC stack” has opened up new technical opportunities that enable people to work in very different ways.

The challenge is that IT departments have been unable to keep pace with the explosive growth of user expectation and technology, breeding user frustrations, stranded opportunities and unfortunate and damaging by-products, such as the emergence of “shadow IT”.

These are dangerous warning signs.  Computacenter has recently undertaken some independent research and the initial findings from employees is clear –failing to enable and empower users affects productivity, leads to workarounds (shadow IT) and in extreme cases may cause individuals to reconsider working for the particular company.  You’ll hear more about our research findings in the coming weeks, so look out for the report!

To address this, we’ve seen many organisations, our partners and some of our competitors define approaches to try to get a deeper understanding of their users.  These solutions carry many names; Persona Analysis and User Segmentation are two examples.  Our own approach is called Workstyle Analysis, and we believe it is different to the alternative approaches. This blog will hopefully explain how and why.

Let’s start with the alternative approaches, Persona Analysis being the most commonly used term.  Persona’s are either specific fictional characters that are created (e.g. John the Machine Operative) or stylised groupings of users (e.g. “Knowledge Workers”) that have certain characteristics and features.  They are used to provide a broad view of the types of characters within a particular scenario.  The two approaches above are not mutually exclusive, and are often used in conjunction with one another. The central issue is that they are fabricated examples of users, rather than real life examples.  Whilst the personas may be drawn from real user interviews and questionnaires, the results are aggregated to create a higher level view.

The problem occurs when you lose the personal connection to real world people.  People resonate to specific, scenarios and challenges that affect them or can relate to, not clever representations of a perfect or imperfect world.

Our approach is different, we call it Workstyle Analysis and have developed and refined the approach over several years of development.  Within our approach we always canvass real users, via interviews, focus groups, questionnaires and observation of them working.  We spend time understanding not only what they do, but how and why they do it. We don’t solution or recommend fixes, we just try to figure out what works for users and what doesn’t.

We create individual person profiles mapping a “Day in their Life”, where they work, how they work, what they use.  From the results of all the users we define customer specific Workstyles.  We have our own framework as a starter, but we always tailor for the customer’s specific circumstances.  With the Workstyles (roles) defined we can then make future decisions at a level that are relevant to all the users affected.  The solutions and fixes we provide directly address the feedback provided by the users, meaning Workstyle Analysis can be used as part of your feedback loop for measuring user satisfaction, engagement and the success of your IT function in enabling your users.

We aggregate all of our findings and provide high level business feedback.  The graphic below is an example of meaningful information that the business can act on to improve the user experience and assure their services are available and comprehensive to meet the user need.

wsa_headlines

Workstyle Analysis is at the centre of our enabling users approach.  We’ve performed the analysis on our own staff as part of our mobile working transformation, and have taken a number of organisations through the approach and are now guiding them towards addressing some of their issues and capitalising on the opportunity that a deep understanding of their users can provide to their business.

To understand more please follow this link

About Paul Bray

Paul is Computacenter’s Chief Technologist for Digital Workplace @PSBray

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