by Shubhra Rishi

Managing Great UXpectations in 2014: CIO Think Tank

Dec 12, 20138 mins

One of the major reasons for the failure of IT projects is user resistance. As mobility and social media come of age in 2014, it could be the best time to shift your focus to user experience.

This isn’t a story about Steve Jobs.

But it is about what Jobs once famously said: “You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology.” And in the world of technology,  when it comes to user experience, the spotlight is on CIOs—the spin doctors who are expected to turn this experience into “delight.”

In this new world of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, change, agility)the expectation from IT is no less than the expectation from superheroes in a fantasy world. Their roles in the last few years have undergone tremendous change. Their evolving roles today demand less of developing and maintaining made-to-order functional applications and more of creating a seamless experience for their users, both internal and external.

Let’s admit, it’s a tough job to do.

And that’s primarily because users are spoilt for choice. This user is also a consumer. He’s bred in a world of technology that’s transforming people’s lives in such a way that we no longer can distinguish between the surreal and real. It’s the same technology that’s delivering a whole host of smartphones, cloud and mobile apps, and social and collaboration software at breakneck speed.

This breakthrough in the consumer space is changing the way organizations do business, both inside and outside of the enterprise.

“Users have become used to good things in the consumer space,” says Sudhir Reddy, VP and CIO, Mindtree. By good, he means, apps that are intuitive, fast, fun, and accessible from any device. He says, the use of cloud has allowed users to update once and consume many times and on many devices. Therefore, it’s upto CIOs to determine how steadfast they are in driving consumer-centric design principles. It’s true that the consumerization of IT has introduced new workflows, governance processes, and methods of decision-making according to changing employee behavior. Companies such as NIIT have latched on to this trend. “With the consumerization of IT, users are now experiencing the user interface (UI) of devices that they buy and use outside the enterprise. One has to develop UI of applications in a way that they exceed expectations of both internal and external customers,” says Sunil Sirohi, SVP-IT, NIIT.

The arrival of consumer technologies in the workplace and the advent of social media have to take the blame for setting new UI benchmarks. As a result, employees and customers now expect software to be easy to use.

While that’s understandable, it’s also true that CIOs are more concerned about handling risk than creating user experience. Businesses are still focused on scope and getting the specifications right. They are still delivering business requirements and not engaging with the users for whom these applications are being deployed.

CIOs need to Change IT Function to Improve Customer Experience – See more at:…

According to Gartner, companies are no longer developing applications for an exclusive user base over which one can exert standards and control. This development is leading to the need for IT to look into the techniques and practices of what Gartner calls “global class” computing—an approach to designing systems and architectures that extend computing processes outside the enterprise and into the culture of consumers, mobile workers and business partners.

CIOs need to Change IT Function to Improve Customer Experience

Further, the research agency adds that it’s important to recognize that trends such as BYOD, bring your own application (BYOA), and cloud computing are leading indicators of a long-term structural change occurring in the industry—this is not the demands of a few errant staff demanding their favorite brand of technology.

Therefore, CIOs need to learn and adapt quickly and at the same time, push their teams to give their best shot at enhancing user experience because believe it or not, it’s the need of the hour.

Getting Users on Board

One of the main reasons for Marico’s growing profits has been its focus on understanding consumer needs before introducing new products into the market. Its IT-Head, Girish Rao insists that instead of getting into the rut of standard SDLC, demystifying the unspoken needs of the users is extremely important while deploying an application. “We employ a connect-and-deploy approach which involves spending more time and riding along with end-users in order to understand what they want,” he says.

Rao learned the importance of connecting with users after Marico rolled out a sales force app with a geo-tagging feature for its fieldforce to identify the GPS location of the user where a particular order was getting booked. Instead of getting favorable results, the company’s orders started dipping. It was only when the team visited the shop with a sales user that it realized that mobiles weren’t catching the GPS signal inside the shop while the order was being booked. Had the IT team not realized that, the problem wouldn’t have been fixed.

While ride-alongs are a great way to know your users’ needs, V. Subramaniam, director IT and CIO, Pacific Asia Area, Otis Elevator Company, says getting users involved from the conceptualization stage is a great way to create better deliverables and get buy-in. To be able to do that, Subramaniam is using an agile framework called Rapid Prototyping. This helps him get quick feedback and makes it easier for the IT team to understand and address business needs, customer needs, and usability. Once that’s done, Subramaniam says, every solution that’s deployed is first used by the company’s internal team and only then the application is rolled out for external use.  

Being a consumer of your own services is a principle that Ajay Meher, SVP-IT and post production, Multi Screen Media, also swears by. Being a media organization, Meher says experience is critical when it comes to UI design. “Sometimes the look matters more than the functionality,” he says.  His team consists of UI designers who create simple design templates (PSDs) of user interface to get user feedback of the look and feel of an application before its being rolled out to the end users.

The Jobs Way

While getting users involved is a great thing to do, CIOs will  agree with what Jobs once said: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Jobs was talking about his own ability to communicate the benefits of his own design to consumers.  And as a result, the term ‘user delight’ echoed in Apple as it sold 6.1 million units over five quarters.

MSM’s Meher says Apple’s iPhone would never have been created if Jobs would have taken into account user requirements.

“If you ask users what’s the experience they are looking for, they wouldn’t be able to spell it out for you.” Instead, use IT, he says, to continuously work on a solution to build that experience.

NIIT’s Sirohi says users only know as much as what they have already experienced.

There are two things to delivering a great user experience, he says, one is the app that is expected to hold flawless content and functionality, and the other is UI design. In an enterprise where applications are built to last forever and deliver higher ROI year-on-year, it becomes difficult to sustain user experience. Sirohi says, for such apps, repackage the presentation layerEand build new apps seeking the help of skilled UI designers and deliver customer-focused design principles such as easy navigation, device-specific delivery, user impact, and engaging use of imagery.

Users Rule

As far as understanding requirements go, Rao and his team are entwined with the users to deliver more than what they hoped for. For instance, Rao says, when the company needed an Excel-based system to assimilate a screen that would capture 22 data points, Rao and his team worked with end users only to find out that they needed only 4 data points for the purpose of decision-making in real-time. Marico’s Rao says the art lies in simplifying the process and the user screens.

That’s a challenge that UI designers as well as app design developers need to take up. “But truth be told, the lesser you make the millennial generation do, the happier they are”, he says.

Otis’ Subramaniam says that user delight breeds on simplification and user involvement. “Involving the users during design phase resulted in unleashing the creativity of the users and delivering a great application packed with features and a great user interface,” he says. In order to unburden CIOs from the pressure of user delight, NIIT’s Sirohi says enterprises need to setup an IT environment (infrastructure and apps) that is always on and always available. Collaboration, he says, is the name of the game and the new-age collaboration tools will help users, customers, vendors, and partners to be connected to the enterprise which will inspire, engage, and amaze them.

Going forward, applications will become more and more personalized and will be designed for individuals but aimed at utilizing the power of groups. Organizations that are leveraging that are going to change their users’ experience to delight.

And that’s something Steve Jobs would approve. Send feedback on this feature to