The Emerging Requirement of User Experience
By Ed Youngblood, September 11, 2013
When I reflect on how user experience has emerged as an essential consideration in business networks and communications, it almost seems like an oxymoron. It wasn’t so long ago that justifying an IT purchase decision based on user experience could get a CIO laughed out of the boardroom.
Cheaper, better, faster – these have always been go-to adjectives in the IT environment, but not user experience. Criteria such as cost, bandwidth, and throughput are tangible and easy to measure, which means they fit nicely into a spreadsheet. User experience has been the irrelevant fodder of creative types, the designers. Has anyone seen a designer or creative sitting in the C-Suite? Not unless the business WAS a creative agency.
Clearly technology has evolved. Matured. Experience matters.
Experience is a differentiator. Walt Disney understood this as he conceived Disneyland and the Disney enterprise. So did Steve Jobs. Experience is instinctive to the hospitality industry. IT? Not so much. To be fair, the entertainment and hospitality industries are more mature than information technology where user experience is not yet second nature. But, it is important to realize that the technology evolution has reached an important stage of growth. Digital interfaces, applications and infrastructures are maturing.
The Progression of Economic Value is an economic framework first published in 1999 by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. Within their model they postulate that as a market matures, goods and services become commoditized and the customer experience is what matters most. This progression into what Pine and Gilmore define as the experience stage increases their value, audience engagement and ultimately revenue to the business.
Information technology and communications are in transition, moving beyond the services stage and entering the experience stage. A dial tone or wireless signal is a commoditized service, but a multi-modal, polymorphic collaborative conversation is no longer just a phone call, but a unified communications experience. It is both immersive and participatory, and is shaped by choices made by the user in how they choose to interact with the service. Ultimately, the experience is measured on emotional and personal criteria - how memorable it is and how powerful the desire is to repeat it.
So I wonder about business conversations IT and finance executives are having on communications infrastructures and applications now that high quality user experience has emerged as a requirement. The user experience criterion is inherently personal and intangible. The designer thrives on intangibles, C-level executives not so much.
This leads me to the question I really want to ask– how do you measure your users’ experience? What’s important to your network? I welcome your thoughts.
This blog originally appeared on Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise and is republished here with their permission.