Setting the Bar for BPM User Experience

A common sentiment in the User Experience (UX) field is that the best user experience is one where you dont have to think about it. There is a reason my 2 year old son can use an iPad or iPhone, and that reason is that the UI and the way you navigate is just that intuitive. While that is great for simple processes , flipping through pictures, or reading the news, how do we get that simplicity into much more complex BPM UI?

One of the main challenges to getting to this level of “non-thinking” intuitive BPM UI is that the current BPM UX for a lot of enterprises is so poor. The fallout form this is that the bar for good BPM UI has been set so low, that almost any upgrade is seen as a vast inprovement. To perform a simple process in many organizations requires the use of multiple software applications, asynchronous data exchanges, lack of integration with legacy systems and not knowing exactly where you are in the process.

I sit with a lot of front line users who would benefit everyday from the concept of good BPM without ever knowing what BPM actually is. Nor should they know. What they should be able to see and experience is a single,  simple, process-led UI that just works. The complexities of the system should not be a burden that any user needs to bear.

Beyond making the overall user experience less complex, there is another main challenge to creating good BPM user experience. That culprit is Data. Too much data finds it way onto BPM UI screens because older systems had that same model. I call it the shotgun approach because you literally spray as much data as a user could ever possibly need to make a decision and hope that it sticks. The mentality is usually “If I provide the user with enough data, they will be able to make their own decisions and come to the right conclusion”. This approach, while commendable for trying to empower and listen to what the end user wants, is misguided. The “P” in BPM stands for process, right? A good BPM UI takes the business process decided upon and guides the user through that, ensuring that they only see the right amount of data when they need it. This ensures less errors, improved task performance, and an overall more intuitive experience that does not require unecessary thought.

The concept of process-driven UI vs data driven UI can be a hard sell due to the fact that when BPM comes in to upgrade existing systems, the UX for those systems is data driven. Again, we see that the bar is set low. Simply eliminating a few legacy systems can be seen as a huge win in some organizations. When we look at that over the long term though, we hardly see a true improvement in the UX. To set that BPM UI bar higher, we need to eliminate data that is not pertinent to the business process step being worked, and use the UI technology and methods we have at our disposal to help users achieve their goals. Let the users think about the important stuff, and not make them think about how to manipulate a UI to get the results they want.  If the UI feels right and acts more naturally, then the business process becomes clearer and you have more success at truly streamlining it.

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By Baruch Sachs @ Pegasystems | February 1, 2012

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