Note: This post was originally published by Catherine Courage on LinkedIn, December 16, 2014.
In my last post, “A Human Outcomes Company,” I talked about the way Citrix uses a human outcomes perspective to inform and shape not only the technologies we deliver, but also the experiences we provide for our customers. Today I’d like to discuss a few more of the ways we think about the human element of our work. Again, the key is to remember that technology is only meaningful to the extent that it can meet peoples’ needs, improve their lives and create new opportunities that excite and inspire them. Otherwise, it’s all just ones and zeroes for their own sake.
In the last post, I talked about the nature of human outcomes as a journey, not just a moment in time, as well as the promise of technology to set people free rather than tying them down. How else can human outcomes inform your design thinking? Here are three more ways.
Everyone Deserves to be Treated Like a Consumer
Every tech professional pays lip service to consumerization, but it’s worth reflecting on what it really means. It’s not just a matter of tweaking an interface or changing the scripts your helpdesk uses. It’s my understanding that every resource you provide should be able to earn user adoption and loyalty through the experience it provides. Would people use it if they had an alternative? That’s not just a rhetorical question—in today’s world, people often do have another option, and it’s probably going to be worse for your organization. For example, if the file sharing system you provide is a pain to use, they’ll turn to a consumer service instead—creating endless nightmares for your security and compliance teams.
In that sense, there are many areas where IT is now competing in the same marketplace as consumer services. To succeed, you need to deliver solutions that people actually want to use, with an experience they love. In this effort, IT can wield a powerful natural advantage: intimate knowledge of what matters most to users. Consumer solutions are often simple to use, but their functionality is often limited—what if users could choose a solution with simplicity and features designed for business, like workflow integration and the ability to access more data in more places?
IT Administrators deserve to be treated like consumers, too. In fact, they’re one of our top priorities at Citrix. We want to make it easy and even exciting for them to get their hands on our products, test them and put them to work for their business. We want them to feel like heroes—and for their organization to see them that way, too. The same applies to the tools they use themselves. Business workers aren’t the only ones who want a more mobile, flexible and personalized way to work—IT admins should have an experience designed around their needs as well, instead of being locked in the datacenter.
Data Can’t Replace Thinking
There’s no question that big data can have a powerful and transformative impact on business. It’s not magic, though; nor is it automatic. Big data projects that begin without clearly defined business goals are highly susceptible to drift, sprawl and spending money just for the sake of checking a box. Again, let human outcomes guide your big data strategy. What questions do the people in your organizations need answers to, and how will they use them? How will the initiative change the way they work to help them become more productive and effective, smarter, more satisfied? Based on these considerations, you can determine which data you need to collect and what you’ll need to do with it.
Think about use cases where big data can drive human understanding or improve customer experiences in a way that matters to your business. What are the points of friction in your supply chain that make it difficult to keep your distribution channels stocked during periods of peak demand? How can you better identify fraudulent banking transactions without imposing unnecessary burdens on your customers? Where are people becoming confused by your online experience, or losing interest in the content you provide? What information and services can you provide to travelers whose plans are suddenly disrupted by a major storm? In simple terms—if you did have a magic wand, what problems would you solve for your employees and customers, and which data can help you accomplish the same thing?
Change and Growth Can Go Hand-In-Hand
It’s impossible to know how technology will evolve in the coming years. Even today, the rate of change can be dizzying for IT leaders as they try to prioritize investments and make the right bets on emerging trends. But rather than a source of angst, I see that as one of the things that makes our work so exciting. When the iPad was first introduced few people would have imagined that mobility would transform healthcare. Now, doctors and nurses are using tablets and an array of other mobile devices to create a more intimate patient experience. Telemedicine helps them mobilize their expertise to consult and deliver care to patients in distant corners of the world. Social collaboration tools and rich media facilitate the flow of new knowledge and innovative techniques across healthcare organizations and medical schools. You can learn more about this in our case study on Miami Children’s Hospital—this is one of my favorite stories to tell because it shows how a human-outcomes approach to design thinking can actually help save the life of children around the world, which is pretty powerful.
I recently visited another of our large healthcare customers, and it was thrilling to see that their strategy is not to fight against the pace of change, but to embrace it. They recognize that they need to continually change and restructure to keep up with new demands. I know that the transition to electronic medical records has been difficult for many in the industry—people are changing the way things have always been done, and doing so at a scary, overwhelming scale. But when you see what’s possible when an individual’s health information becomes mobile—how it enables seamless continuity of care across providers, and helps ensure that complete context is available at each link in that chain—you understand how important it is. You can find similar examples in every industry. Change is often hard, but it’s through change that we can improve the lives of our customers.
As we close out 2014, we’re already deep into our strategies and plans for our products and services for the year ahead, but we also realize that the most exciting developments may be things that we haven’t even thought of yet. Rapid innovation and disruptive change are the nature of our industry. In fact, as markets shift and evolve, it’s all too tempting for company leaders to either go into a reactive mode, scrambling to keep up with the latest shifts, or to start trying to guess what the next big thing will be before the competition gets there. Times like these are when it’s most important to stay true to your principles. At every stage of design, you should be asking yourself: is this solving a need that matters to my customers? Is it helping them do more of what they want to be doing, and freeing them from limitations on their potential? Are we transforming lives, not just checking boxes on a competitive grid? Are we continuing to elevate the human element in our work? When the answer is yes, there’s no limit to what you can achieve.