“The conscious purpose of science is control of nature; its unconscious effect is disruption and chaos.” – William Irwin Thompson.
As promised, Part 2 of this article is meant to discuss several strategies about how to effectively manage disruption when it comes to the UX or User Experience part of any BPM application. While I am specifically relating disruption management to the UX of BPM, the techniques are certainly not specific to this area and can be readily applied to a variety of disciplines.
Managing UX disruption is a particularly tricky area, simply due to the fact that there is a lot of emotional attachment involved. User Experience by its very nature is something that speaks to the very heart of human beings, and when you do that, you inevitably get all the challenges and fickleness that comes along with that. When you introduce a new way of looking at things to people, you will have some that embrace it, and others that put up walls to prevent it. Unfortunately, the latter group can quickly drown out the former.
BPM UX is an even more unique sub-area in that you more than likely are not only introducing a new UX to people, but you are also introducing a radical new way of looking at how people will manage and view work. The combination of the two areas is likely to provide plenty of disruptive opportunities that require a firm grasp on the way people not only think about change, but how they react to it.
There are 3 core strategies that I follow whenever embarking on a new project that will introduce a new customer experience to people that has both UI and BPM elements. I have found that employing these 3 strategies mitigates negative effects of disruption.
Eliminate the Element of Surprise
A big part of the powerful force that is disruption is the element of surprise. This is especially true in the area of UX. Waking up one day to find out the UI has completely changed on you can really disrupt your day. Think the Facebook Timeline debacle or even consumer products that have changed their look, their feel, their taste to disastrous results.
Most people do not relish or thrive on change. This is pretty well understood. What is not as understood as much is why. What I have found through my involvement in providing disruptive user experiences is that they are the most successful when the user community is prepared. BPM implementations have relatively captive audiences when compared to consumer products. Our user communities are smaller, and we have more one on one interaction with a larger percentage of the people that are actually going to use our BPM solutions on a day to day basis.
As such, we have the responsibility to ensure that we are engaging our users and providing them with a complete understanding of how our implementation of BPM may indeed introduce change, but that the changes we make are really speaking to the way user WANT to do things but are currently prevented by their current processes and tools.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
This is a solid, general strategy that works wonders in many aspects of life. BPM UI is no exception. However, to employ this strategy effectively, it does require a bit of preparation. You need to know what systems and processes customers are currently using which hopefully you have part of your methodology to begin with. Once you understand this more, you then need to figure out areas of concern with regards to the new solutions you are providing. Knowing the people on a human level is where this strategy not only becomes critical, but also possible. It is not enough to be able to understand the questions and concerns that are raised by people in meetings. You need to think about what is being said, and more importantly what is NOT being said. To be proactive sometimes means reading between lines as well as anticipating what concerns or questions might be raised.
Proactivity in the BPM UX area means understanding the possible pain points before they become pain points. I have seen a number of projects thrown into disarray simply becasue a CIO or someone in a leadership role comes by, takes a look at the UI and says ” Wow, this looks awful”. All the wonderful work that was done to streamline and automate processes, reduce complexity, etc is for naught because at the end of the day the UI is the system. We must be proactive in ensuring that all that good work is showcased by the UI, not obfuscated by it.
I chose the quote above not only because I believe that when you try to control too much, the actual opposite occurs, but because the social philosopher I quoted also believes that story telling is an inescapable part of the human existence. So what does the musings of a philosopher have to do with BPM and UX? Actually quite a bit. The successful implementation of a BPM project is something you WANT people to be talking about. This not only helps unlock the power of BPM to a wider audience, but also helps you radiate within the organization. Part of a successful BPM project is that it has a powerful story to tell. A story of transformation and empowerment for its users and business stakeholders. For that type of story to be told, you need to first transform and empower users to be able to tell it. I have seen where many BPM projects are being done TO a user community, instead of with the user community. When this happens there is no sense of ownership around the vision and a complete lack of empowerment. As BPM leaders, we have unique opportunities to showcase how BPM is a disruptive experience and those opportunities should be taken advantage of by working with the communities that are going to leverage these experiences. Bring them into the decision making process, make them feel as if it is their story of transformation to tell.
This is probably one of the harder strategies to employ as it is natural to want to show the “right” way of employing BPM. Afterall, we are the BPM experts so we need to be able to not only implement solutions, but also evangelize that what we are doing is the right way of doing things. Trying to wrest control from the users to do this however, is a guaranteed path to failure.
Managing disruption does not follow a predictable path. Simply because disruption is not always predictable. Having a number of flexible strategies to employ though will help mitigate that risk as well as ensure that you remain a BPM thought leader.