Why User Experience Is Critical to Your Business Outcomes

There are customers who love engaging with your business, and those who don’t. Now more than ever, this dichotomy has significant competitive implications. Social media enables the user experience to go viral, which gives a megaphone to your business’s most dissatisfied customers. This—among less dramatic reasons—is why modern organizations have placed the discipline of User Experience, or UX, at the core of what they do.

UX encompasses all aspects of the end user’s interaction with a business’s products and services. The UX mindset is rooted in how your firm approaches design, research, and strategy. And when design and research are elevated by a strategy that is directly accountable to user needs, the results can be transformative. A company that is UX-driven better sets itself up for growth and repeat business—not just because their application features do the job, but because customers love doing the job with their application features. Read on to learn how to promote the culture of UX in your organization.

 

Start With a Strategy

Think of a positive experience you had while shopping online. You might remember completing a successful search, using informative tools for comparison shopping, and cruising through a frictionless checkout process. Now bring to mind a negative interaction: zero search results, puzzling navigation and taxonomy, unclear item stock levels, no guest checkout. Companies notorious for negative customer experiences neglect to meaningfully connect UX with their strategic vision. This applies to both brick-and-mortar stores, websites, and mobile apps.

The user experience is dynamic, and to optimize for it requires ongoing dialogue. A UX-conscious firm creates processes to actively listen to, understand, and give voice to current and potential customers. A company that values the user experience hears this voice at every step of production and responds accordingly.

It follows, then, that a firm’s design and research activities should carry the lion’s share of a user-centered vision. Let’s turn now to the hallmarks of health in both design and research.

Design

  • Design is iterative, and evolves from sketches to high fidelity through a user-conscious process. If you’re not agile, make a plan to get there.
  • Both visual and interactive design should receive equal attention. Don’t focus on one at the other’s expense.
  • Establish standards and best practices that guide most day-to-day design decisions.
  • A qualified design practitioner is comfortable in agile environments and cognizant of strategy and research when they’re on the job. In this sense, the best designers are creative business solutions specialists who are sympathetic toward the end user experience.

Research

  • Most research falls into two categories: generative (or discovery) and evaluative. Discover what should be built and evaluate how it should be improved.
  • Generative research includes ethnography, needs analysis, surveys, and focus groups.
  • Evaluative research typically employs usability tests, heuristic evaluations, A-B testing, and competitive best-of-breed tests. It’s not uncommon for evaluative research to occasionally yield generative results.
  • Quantitative and qualitative research methodologies are typically best suited to determine the what and why of user pain points. Try not to mix these disciplines in the same study.
  • A qualified research practitioner has a strong command of qualitative and quantitative methodologies and understands when each is called for. Often, they are the first to hear a user’s pain and will naturally advocate for them.
  • Today speed of research is of equal importance to quality. Those who research faster are able to make UX improvements faster. To this extent, end user measurement and analytics provide valuable insights into the user’s journey, the smartphone or tablet they use, and where they are located.

Next Steps

Investing in the following areas will help your company bring the user experience into focus. Even modern organizations will benefit from these actions, as customer needs are always in flux.

  • Know your users
    All too often, products are built on myths of users, not on an accurate assessment of their needs. If you haven’t invested in quality persona development, do it. The earlier the better.
  • Benchmark
    To assist in justifying UX ROI, you need to know where things stand today. What happens when users encounter your service? Why are they abandoning? What are the top three pain points? Click stream analysis, usability studies, and heuristic evaluations are tried-and-true ways of getting your bearing. Evaluate as many user touchpoints as feasible.
  • Strengthen your data awareness
    Invest in measurement and analytics architecture. Structure your organization so the people who first receive analytics are not incentivized to skew the data in any way. Research, product, and design groups should enjoy equal access to quality metrics. Otherwise, an “us versus them” mentality can develop. Invest in end user measurement and analytics solutions to get closer to your users and understand how every image, function, and feature impact UX.
  • Define your vision and your customer’s place within it
    Strategic conversations frequently exclude user experience. To foster a true UX culture, your organization should proactively give customer needs a voice in most critical decisions. This means establishing goals and accountability pursuant to those needs.

How to Measure the Results

Firms with lower UX awareness or limited availability of analytics often focus their attention on metrics gleaned within or between research exercises (such as time to task completion or benchmark ratings). While this field of view can prove useful in evaluating customer interactions in isolation, it often misses the larger context of satisfaction across the full spectrum of brand touchpoints.

A mature approach to measuring the impact of user experience taps into diverse data sources. Taken as a whole, measurements including surveys, click stream analytics, call center metrics, and conversion rates can tell a compelling story. Add to that the insight provided by qualitative research methodologies, and a panoramic view of the user journey begins to emerge. Today’s most UX-forward organizations consider all these factors, along with more conventional business KPIs, in order to justify their focus on user needs.

Conclusion

Drawing up a strategic UX roadmap is a great way to link tactics and methods with a user-centered vision for success. This helps promote holistic thinking about how your customer interacts with your brand. What should result is an organization that is both tuned in to its user’s needs and experiences and ready to be changed by what it learns.

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Accelerate the Velocity of Your Business

Businesses today need to move at high velocity in order to remain competitive. The digital transformation that has propelled many industries to make investments in their applications now requires tighter alignment between business and IT.

In order to achieve ideal velocity, companies must change their culture from a traditional waterfall software delivery system to one of continuous delivery in order to innovate more quickly. The days of having large-scale releases are now gone and businesses must drive new feature launches in small, incremental upgrades. However, this new approach also presents some challenges for the business as well as IT. Understanding the health of an application instantly after every release is important to assess its quality, and recognizing its relationship to the health of the business and the customer experience just as quickly is crucial to running a successful and agile enterprise.

Having the right monitoring platform in place becomes critical to managing a business that’s able to innovate continuously. This system must cross from IT and DevOps to the business side of things to provide an understanding of how performance affects your financial objectives. The tension that previously existed between business and IT that led to internal battles stands in the way of innovation. According to Forrester’s Report, CIOs: Use Your BT Agenda To Support eBusiness Strategy, “Achievement can be accelerated with shared goals between IT, development, and management.”

In order to maintain a competitive advantage, enterprises must embrace high velocity innovation by leveraging better collaboration with IT and business to understand the connection between application performance and the bottom line in real time.

 

AppDynamics: Driving Business Velocity with Software Agility

This article originally appeared on the Intellyx website

Management consultants and pundits love to bandy about the phrases business agility and business velocity as though they meant the same thing. In reality, however, these are related, but very different concepts. Business agility is the ability for an organization to respond quickly and efficiently to change, and to leverage change for competitive advantage. Business velocity refers to how quickly an organization can respond to customer needs, as perceived by customers.

As enterprises transform into digital organizations, software becomes an increasingly important part of both the business agility and business velocity stories. And yet, both these concepts refer to the organization itself, made up of both people and software.

In contrast, software agility means the ability for the software in an organization to respond to change as needed by the business, while software velocity refers to the actual performance of the software.

As one might expect, software agility drives business agility and software velocity drives business velocity. Neither is sufficient to ensure their business counterpart, as humans are an important part of the mix, but without software agility or velocity, the business is doomed to being inflexible and slow.

Perhaps more interesting is the fact that software agility is also an important driver of business velocity. In other words, software must be both fast and flexible or the business will slow down.

Any knowledge worker who has had the displeasure of working with inflexible software will confirm this statement. When inflexible software runs into a situation it can’t handle, it’s up to the human users to take over for the software, thus slowing the business down.

Today, the business agility challenge is to take the human out of this loop whenever possible. The more flexible the software, the faster the business goes.

AppDynamics: Real-Time Business Insights

This relationship between software agility and business velocity is at the heart of the application analytics capabilities from AppDynamics.

As a next-generation application performance management (APM) vendor, AppDynamics has expanded the APM story, connecting it to business transactions. This connection is vitally important to today’s software-driven organizations.

Yet, traditionally, IT hasn’t been able to respond in real-time. IT has historically had access to operations data, including browser, mobile, app, and infrastructure performance – but it struggles to connect the dots with marketing or other business data.

Yet, when the business wants to deliver a superior customer experience with zero downtime, thereby reducing customer churn, IT must step up to the plate and understand changing usage patterns, prevent performance problems, and accelerate the release of new features.

In order to accomplish these tasks, IT – operations and development in particular – must understand the correlation between business and software performance in real-time. And yet, today’s established big data analytics approaches fall short on this real-time requirement. Instead, today’s data analysis is backwards-looking, and can’t keep up with today’s agile apps.

Furthermore, today’s organizations need specialists who know how to analyze the data, thus slowing the process down. And the data the business does have is out of date and often lacks sufficient detail for optimal decision making.

Traditional big data approaches also typically require repeated custom development, because developers must change the code that drives the analytics. With custom big-data analytics, any new report becomes yet another development project. Such modern development is iterative, but it’s still slow and hard to maintain for rapidly changing apps.

AppDynamics has solved these problems. By offering real-time visibility into the performance of the business (not just the technology), decision makers are now freed to manage their software-driven organizations at the business level, instead of making decisions that must drive additional custom development. A diagram illustrating this real-time business visibility appears below.

 

appdynamics chart

Real-Time Business Visibility Example

The Intellyx Take

The real-time visibility that AppDynamics can provide gives its customers the software agility they need to drive business velocity. Business users can now focus on the important insights that the underlying data can provide. Such insights can raise the level of value those users can now provide to customers.

For example, AppDynamics enables business impact analysis. Identifying failed transactions in order to craft a personal response or a win-back campaign are examples of the power of such analysis.

Other uses cases include usage analytics, which can increase user adoption by helping business decision makers understand customer engagement drivers, and advanced performance analytics for automatically prioritizing app performance for high-value customers and partners.

In the final analysis, modern enterprise digital apps connect the user experience across all touchpoints to back office systems, and every link in this complex technology chain must perform properly for customers to have the experience they desire.

By providing real-time visibility into the business performance of such applications, business users have the appropriate tools to manage their customers’ experience in real-time, thus delivering on the promise of business velocity – a capability that goes straight to the bottom line.

Intellyx advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. AppDynamics is an Intellyx client. Intellyx retains full editorial control over the content of this article.

Deploying APM in the Enterprise Part 8: Stay Thirsty (and Relevant) My Friends

Welcome back to my series on Stay RelevantDeploying APM in the Enterprise. In Part 7: Dashboards and Reports – Get the Business on Your Side we discussed ways of using data collected by your monitoring tools to benefit the business and provide a holistic view to the people who need it. When implemented properly, dashboards and reports can act as a value multiplier to your monitoring investments.

This week we finally arrive at the end of my series. If you’ve implemented the suggestions in my other posts you’re probably an up and coming rockstar in your organization. Now that you’re on the right track you need to avoid becoming a one hit wonder. This post is dedicated to all the one hit wonders out there, and will act as your guide on how to avoid this scenario. So in honor of the one hit wonders of past years and decades I’ll be scattering some song names and artists throughout this post as a reminder of their fleeting fame and glory.

Build and Lead a Center of Excellence (CoE)

The Reason – Hoobastank

“And the reason is you…” – When you’re at the top of your game it can be difficult to figure out what you want to do next. In most organizations you wont maintain your rockstar status for long without diversifying your skill set and securing your next big win. The “What have you done for me lately?” mentality is alive and well in the corporate world. Give the masses what they want (your next hit) by starting a CoE, inviting performance geeks from all across your organization, and exchanging information. You’ll probably hear about all kinds of performance nightmares and have the opportunity to help solve them with your tools and expertise. You will also probably get exposed to cool projects that other performance geeks are working on and get a chance to improve your skills. The CoE is a powerful tool for any organization.

Architect the Future

Epic – Faith No More

The Future“You want it all but you can’t have it…” unless you are the Architect deciding the direction of tooling for your organization. Larger organizations will have architecture review boards or something similar that make decisions on the technology direction for the company. Attend these meetings and find out what it takes to become a board member.

“If you don’t have a seat at the table you’re probably on the menu.” – I have no idea who to attribute this quote to but it’s right on the money. Go get your seat at the table!!!

The Trusted Advisor

You’re a Friend of Mine – Clarence Clemons

“Oh you can depend on me, over and over…” – Being a trusted adviser means that you have built a strong relationship with someone and they value your viewpoint. If you are responsible for solving a problem for the business make sure you take time to nurture that relationship through conversation, email, chat, etc… Be sure to check in occasionally and ask is there is anything that you can help resolve. The more problems you help out with, the stronger your trusted advisor status becomes, the brighter your rockstar shines. It’s a cycle you want to be caught up in. This is a role that adds tremendous value to your organization and to your personal career so make sure you give this the attention it deserves.

Customer/Vendor Relationship

I Can Help – Billy Swan

“When I go to sleep at night, you’re always a part of my dream” – I’ve had my work invade my dreams too many times. It’s definitely a sign that you are immersed in what you are doing and is scary and pretty cool at the same time.

It’s really important that you have a running dialogue with your software vendor after you make a purchase. You need to make sure your vendor keeps you updated on new product features, best practices, and their product roadmap. It’s not all up to the vendor though, you need to be engaged at multiple levels described below…

Enhancement Requests

You will find that there are features and functionality that could really help in certain circumstances but that are missing from the product you purchased. This happens with every product if you use it enough and you need to keep a list of these enhancements along with use cases to justify and clarify each item. It also helps the vendor tremendously if you can keep the list prioritized and assign a high/medium/low importance to each line item. This benefits both you and the vendor, a true win-win.

Support Calls

RelationshipAnother certainty when using a software product long enough is that you will need some support when the product doesn’t work as expected. Be sure to stay involved with support cases so that you know how responsive the vendor is as well as what problems have already been encountered so you will recognize them if they crop up again in the future. This level of engagement can also help you avoid issues because you already know the scenario that causes a certain problem.

It’s also vitally important to make sure your vendor is responding in a timely manner. Problems that drag on for too long with too little communication create a bad overall impression and can impact the business. This is bad for you, your business, and the vendor. If you notice a pattern of problems that take too long to resolve or just too many issues be sure to address it with your vendor as soon as possible.

User Conferences

Most vendors will have at least annual users conferences. These conferences are a great time to network with other users and learn how they are solving problems, what kind of issues they experience, and understand their best practices for deploying and using the product. It’s also a time where you can learn about upcoming product features and even get to meet the folks who are directly responsible for your tool. There is a wealth of very specific knowledge at users conferences for you to take advantage of so make sure to get approval and reserve your spot early.

Tracking Your Success

The Future’s So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades – Timbuk 3

(No quote needed!) – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Document your successes, ALL of them, and translate each success into business value. By doing this you get the following benefits:

  • Documentation of your value to the business for raises, bonuses, reviews, etc…
  • Track record of past success used in business justification for new products.
  • Business justification when it comes time to renew your existing product licenses.
  • Credibility in presentations when you are meeting with new organizations or convincing application owners to implement your solutions.

Becoming a rockstar in your organization is a great accomplishment that can be easily tarnished by becoming a one hit wonder. Don’t let it happen to you. Become and expert and constantly look for opportunities to share and improve upon your knowledge and skills.

If you’ve read all of the posts in this series you probably deserve some sort of prize (as if your growing rockstar status isn’t enough). Feel free to tweet to me (@HirschOnAPM) to let me know of this gargantuan accomplishment and I’ll see if I can hook you up with some AppDynamics swag as a prize. Now go forth and be a rockstar!

Deploying APM in the Enterprise Part 5: Alerts – Storm of the Century … Every Week!

Welcome back to my series on Deploying APM in the Enterprise. In Part 4: Path of the Rockstar, we discussed how to deploy your new monitoring tool and get maximum value from your time and monetary commitment. This post will cover one of the most important aspects of monitoring: alerting. This is the topic that can make or break your entire implementation. Get it wrong and you’ve wasted a bunch of time and money on mediocre results. Get it right and your time and money investment will be multiplied by the value you derive every day.

App Man wrote a great blog post earlier this year about behavioral learning and analytics as they apply to alerts. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you go read it after you finish this post. Instead of repeating what was covered in that post, we will explore the issues that I saw out in real enterprise operations centers.