In a perfect world, no one needs help using the technology that’s critical to getting their job done. Far too often, however, the technology team is needed to maintain and update another team’s tools. This leads to increased costs, delays, and frustrations when what you need is not what you get. Ultimately, your goal should be a self-service tool that the users can manage themselves. This isn’t hard to do, but it does require a fair amount of up front work.
See the Whole Picture
It’s tempting to focus just on the task at hand and find the best tool for that. But what exactly is the right tool? You need to take into account the whole context in which that task is being performed as well as the goals for the organization.
To see the whole picture, you will need to list not just the users of the tool, but those who provide the inputs and those who consume the outputs. There may be those who never touch the tool but are nonetheless a stakeholder in its usage.
Pick the Right Tool
Only once you understand the universe in which the tool will operate can you consider the options. Who gets to choose can be a touchy subject. If it’s just the tech team, they may wind up selecting something with which they are familiar, something they feel comfortable installing, customizing, and updating. If you widen the circle of decision makers, though, you risk bogging down in endless discussions. An organized approach is key:
- Develop a list of selection criteria with all stakeholders that list the problems to solve and the objective measurements of what a useful tool might look like.
- Find all of the tools that meet those criteria.
- Narrow that list to 3-5 options that best fit your criteria.
- Develop a list of use cases that would exercise all of the critical selection criteria from step 1.
- Allow the potential users to execute the use cases using the tools and rank the tools from most to least favored).
- Make your selection.
Be as Open as You Can
It’s tempting to hide things from non-technical users. You fear that it will confuse them, or allow them to screw things up. But you shouldn’t underestimate the users. The more you show them, the more they’ll feel in control. Here are some things to consider:
- Visual representations of status — Make it immediately obvious when something is good or bad. Do not force them to go hunt it down.
- Just in time help — You don’t want to clutter the interface with help messages, nor should you need to hold their hand while they execute their tasks. Instead, provide easily accessible help that will define what critical states mean and the possible options from the current state.
- Escape hatches — Things are going to go wrong; that’s just human nature. No amount of useful coding is going to prevent that. Instead, the users should have a way to get back to a beginning state.
Remember, while these are smart people, they are not technical. If things do not operate in a consistent manner, it will make their lives more difficult.
Ten Mile Square can help you with this process. We can walk you through the definition and testing steps to help you find the write tool. Contact Us to start the conversation.