Its been a while now since I have last posted about BPM and User Experience. Over the past 5 months, I have been busy helping customers around the world optimize their business processes while at the same time ensuring that the User Interface is usable and engaging. During this very busy time, I have been on the lookout for topics and themes to post about. One theme in particular keeps coming to the forefront: Process is boring.
The whole concept of a process is boring. It’s effective, it gets things done, but no one really thinks about performing a process with the same passion as they do when engaged in a game or looking at a cool new app they just downloaded. It used to be that the coolest applications people worked with were at their places of business. We all know that is not the case anymore. The coolest applications you work with are things that obfuscate any sense of process. They entice you to click, swipe, pull, pinch and post without ever making you feel challenged or constrained. They are the antithesis of most business application we use in an enterprise.
Yet the people who post here and those that read our postings are all passionate about BPM. We believe it can be sexy, it can hold appeal for the masses and it can indeed NOT be boring. There are a lot of articles out there recently talking about the gamification of BPM as a way to get users on board with the concept. While that is all well and good, and does indeed hold promise, it is really cover up when the process itself is not optimized.
Making a BPM application pretty when the process itself is broken does nothing long-term to motivate and capture users. I engage with customers everyday who have an excellent vision around how they want there UI’s to look and feel and how they want users to engage with their applications, yet do nothing to actually optimize the process. Same data structures, same arcane interactions, same number of steps, etc. When this happens, a user knows that a mere veneer is being placed on their experience.
To be able to deliver a world class user experience in BPM applications, you need to transform the process from the ground up. Adoptimg a true business workflow approach is an amazing opportunity to not just make the UI sexy, but to make sure that the system is smart and has the ability to do the heavy lifting while empowering a user make the right decisions without spending all their time figuring out how to navigate the system or enter the right data so they can progress through the flow.
Doing this means making the tough decisions to not have the users look at every piece of data that may have been important over the years. It means deciding to support not only the user you currently have but to design for the users that get hired tomorrow and need to start using the system. What does this all boil up to? It means having a user experience strategy developed alongside or even before figuring out what the business requirements or technical limitations are. Starting with the experience you want your users to have will dictate the buiness requirements and help you decide which technology to use. Instead of being a free for all, developing a UX strategy before implementing BPM allows you to better understand all the benefits of BPM and how best to leverage the approach to excite and delight your users.
What my experience has taught me is that while boring, process is the backbone of any application and optimizing it will make or break successful user adoption. It’s very easy to just focus on the presentation side of things. However, no user interface has ever been successful without focusing on the hard and boring parts like process. A good UX strategy recognizes this and supports process optimization. If it doesn’t, demand that it does.