UX and BSS: A Rant

A lot of the work that I do is in the BSS space so I thought I’d spend some time talking about one of my biggest bug-bears: the neglect of user experience on internally developed business support systems.

Being quite young in the industry with a little more than 10 years of experience, I guess I haven’t experienced the transition that some may have, but whereby other disciplines seem to have evolved to various levels of maturity, focus on UX has at best been left behind.

Even as an Enterprise Architect, a discipline which I believe still has a long way to go in terms of maturity and standardisation, I am flabberghasted that one of the most important aspects of the system – the user interface – is still generally regarded as within the programmer’s remit.

The user experience in my opinion is one of the biggest influencers on user satisfaction and productivity, the very things that the IT departments around the world seek to improve.

One of my favourite books, The Inmates Are Running The Asylum talks about the mindset difference between a programmer and an end user. I guess because the IT management of today honed their skills in an environment which held the wisdom that ‘a programmer can design as good or better a user experience as anyone’, they hold onto this wisdom. The programmer is there to deliver the system that is specified to him. Left to his own devices the programmer will build a UI which is typically data driven (as opposed to inductive, task or goal driven) with cryptic messages that only the IT literate would understand. How could we expect the not-so-IT-literate to be productive with software products incubated in that environment? Who is going to be blamed for the negative perception resulting from the unweildy software products we deliver?

With so much effort going into analysis of requirements to really understand the needs, wants and desired benefits, coming up with elegant and sustainable solutions it seems we are still willing to drop the ball at the final hurdle.

I firmly believe the time for change has arrived. It is high time that UX Architects the world over started to be recognised for the skills they bring to the table, rather than their duties relegated to a programmer’s afterthought, and that IT organisations the world round realise the potential improvement in both the perception of their deliverables and their reputations that a serious focus on user experience could bring them.

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