Incidental Business Re-engineering

User Experience trying it on with the business

When designing interfaces for my clients, I sometimes find myself bound to the legacy systems and processes that come part and parcel with the brief. Often these legacy set-ups go unquestioned as people are simply used to them and ‘It’s just the way we do things’. After all we are creatures of habit so why rock the boat?

I’ll tell you why, sometimes we need to break out of these legacy set-ups to deliver kick ass user experiences.

Now I’m sure you’ve heard of the ‘5 Whys’ where by repeatedly asking the question ‘Why’ helps to determine a root cause of a situation, but have you tried asking ‘Why not?’?

As a User Experience (UX) Specialist, I am in a very privileged position where I am able to hold up a mirror to my clients business, and ask of it to justify decisions that it has made along the way that affect the user. I could keep asking ‘Why’ things are the way the are, but I have found over the years, that when I ask my clients ‘Why not try this?’ exciting things happen!

By giving the client a solution, we don’t give them a problem and it often turns out that with a bit of tweaking, turning and re-jigging later, we probably should!

With a Why Not, the users get the experiences of a lifetime AND we’ve just incidentally triggered the client into making a change in the way they do things internally that will help their business. We’ve helped our client re-engineer a part of their business. This is more traditionally known in the trade as doing a bit of Business Process Re-engineering (BPR).

BPR*, also called Business Process Redesign or Transformation is the analysis, restructure and re-design of workflows within an organisation to improve customer service or to cut operational costs. BPR consultants can be brought in from the outside to help do just this and coincidentally enough, just as we begin our work by understanding the client’s business strategy and user needs and objectives, BPR consultants also begin with the same.

Already in bed with Service design

When looking to BPR to improve Customer Service, businesses have sought out the services of the Service Design craft to help them rethink how their business could work by looking at the experience from the point of view of the customer. Putting the consumer at the centre of the approach is also what UX and User Centered Design (UCD) do.

The relationship between Service Design and UX has been growing ever more serious from the first day that Customer Service jumped into bed with Digital. Digital has been used not only to service customers but also to be accessible and there whenever and however the user wants, to create experiences with brands for the elusive brand engagement, to become advocates and ambassadors, to get rewarded for loyalty, to connect them with friends or other people ‘like them’ and to personalise, customise and socialise for them.

Lets face it, based on their very definitions, Service Design* – the planning and organisation of people, infrastructure, communication and material to improve quality and interaction between customer and service provider – and UX – the overall experience a user has using the game/app/site/system that we design and build – were always going to get it on.

Now don’t forget Product Design* – the generation and development of new consumer products – who becomes the final member of the threesome. Now we see a next generation of mashed up design approaches and techniques that are borne of all three disciplines. Consumer Journey Mapping, touch points, Moments of Truth, devices, cognitive load and emotion indicators, all romping together to create customer service flows and interactions that impact not only the external customer but that require a shift, a change, or a restructure from the internal business.

Size doesn’t matter. Honestly.

All clients,big and small, and all projects, big and small, are susceptible to this unintentional BPR-ing. There is no holding back the value of considered, thoughtful design that asks Why Not, however smaller businesses may be more able to act on these since they tend to be more lean, and less tethered to historical or political processes that are symptomatic of larger businesses.

A relationship with benefits

Whilst some companies bring in specialist BPR consultants to explicitly help the business improve its customer service and to cut operational costs, we, working on digital and user experience constantly do it in the background. It’s more noticeable now that channels have converged, different touch points are all part of the same experience and the consumer lives in a constant state of incipient conversation and interaction. Everything is tied together more than ever before and not just from a technological convergence point of view but also from a consumer relationship or lifecycle management point of view.

So why am I banging on about this BPR that we seem to generate as we go about designing experiences for our clients? It’s because I think it’s a great relationship!

We’re doing something that can add value when we didn’t mean to. We have relationships with our clients that offer them benefits – Incidental Business Re-engineering.

For our clients out there, look forward to this possibly happening and be open and ready to catch those Why Nots and to harness and act on them to turn them into value for your business.

For our fellow UCD agencies out there, recognise that as we go about designing a digital solution and asking Why Not along the way, we are able to show how all the sum of the parts of their business fit together. It’s special to be able to make a difference to our clients internally as well as externally.

Finally, for the ruthless agencies out there, you could consider charging for BPR in the background whilst you go about your day job. You could charge for a whole bunch of people to go around asking Why Not to increase the wisdom of the crowds. But don’t because it won’t work.

It is not a substitute for good quality UX design.

*Thanks to good old Wikipedia for help with definitions