It would be fair to say that many corporate IT systems, used in operational environments within the energy and water retail industry, prioritise functionality at the sacrifice of usability. Call centre applications are a good example; where expensive SAP and Oracle implementations offer core functionality but a poor interface and user experience. As these corporate IT systems get used more and more by Generation Z, surely it is increasingly important that an element of consumer-grade IT is brought to corporate IT systems?
User experience expectations have shifted the playing field in recent years for how humans interact with computers. Consumer-IT interfaces such as those of Facebook and Amazon are responsive, intuitive, put information at people’s fingertips, and offer a predictable and consistent user-experience. Compare that to many corporate IT systems which are often slow, clunky, and overly-complex. In fact in many business areas it is common for staff to have to switch between multiple applications to complete the task at hand.
So, why not bring that consumer-grade IT into the corporate environment? We at Baringa believe that there is a different approach to large-scale upgrades, replacement or implementations of off-the-shelf commercial software. By building custom User Interfaces (UIs) over the top of existing legacy systems, there are significant benefits to be realised. These UIs can be built in modern, widely-used, open-source web-based technologies that would result in the same look-and-feel as most people are accustomed to outside of the office. Being open-source and widely used, these UIs are quick to build and significantly cheaper than trying to bend off-the-shelf software.
Critical to the implementation of these UIs, is putting the end-user at the centre of the design. We’ve seen examples of Customer Relationship Management systems being designed, built and tested without end users seeing the product until the start of User Acceptance Testing. At this time, it is expensive and time-consuming to make changes based on feedback from the end user. Instead, we would advocate for involving the end user from the start. For example, involving call centre agents in workshops and design sessions, sharing screen mock-ups, wireframes and prototypes with them, seconding them on to the project as SMEs, and ultimately making them work with Product Owners to shape the solution using an agile delivery approach.
So what about the benefits? A custom UI built with web-technologies and designed with and by the end users, will result in a system that is intuitive to use and fit-for-purpose. It will reduce training time and time spent shadowing other users. The flexibility afforded will allow for data from multiple systems to be centralised in one place. In the case of call centre solutions, agents will need to spend less time focusing on how to use the system, and more time focusing on the conversation with the customer. Moreover, given the ease and flexibility of the technology, it is quicker and less risky to introduce improvement and enhancements.