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User Experience Data: The Rosetta Stone of Business

Once upon a time there was a tribe called “The Business”. Years passed and this tribe divided among itself, based on interests and approaches to problems, these newly formed sub tribes took to living in different worlds, and singing different songs and when they occasionally collided again, as anyone might have predicted, there was trouble!

For a long long while this wasn’t so much of a problem. The different teams did different things in different places for different reasons, and for the most part they could go about their daily business without running in to one another.

Then the internet changed everything.

But the magic of the internet could not be wielded by one tribe alone. For it to work the tribes had reunite and all had to play their part. This is where the problems began, for the two tribes had been sundered for so long that they no longer even spoke the same language, so how could they now find their way back?

Everyone’s heard the jokes and cliches from one side or the other, and everyone smiles and agrees they are “not true, of course, at least not here” but like all stereotypes there is probably a little grain of truth in there that allowed them to take route in the beginning, and it’s worth a bit of excavation to see what we can learn.

Not only do the disciplines of IT and Marketing typically have very different processes and ways of working, due to the essential differences between their purposes, but those very differences necessarily attract people with different styles of working, thinking and communicating.

This was explored very well by Rebecca Lieb on iMedia Connection in her piece A Marketer’s Guide To Geek Speak in November 2011. As she said, speaking about the 90s:

The closest I ever got to the technical end of marketing in that bygone era was signing off on invoices. But technology is no longer at the service of marketing; it defines marketing. This places marketers on an unprecedented learning curve, requiring them to become conversant (and then some) with skills and tasks for which they are temperamentally ill-suited!”

So, given the differences between left brained, successive processing IT folk and right brained simultaneously processing marketing folk how can we ensure that they can all work together, with the same information, effectively?

When The Left Brain Knows What The Right Brain’s Doing

One of the main issues is use of language. Different ways of thinking result in different ways of communicating. Just because people are making the same “sounds” doesn’t mean they are making the same “sense” with them! Developers typically talk about specifics, Marketers typically talk about concepts. Developers talk about “how” – whatever the subject under discussion, and marketers talk about “what” – no matter how it will be accomplished. This can lead to lead to a lot of cross purposes, and cross people!

But the times of being able to work in splendid isolation with a narrow set of concerns that apply only to one department are long gone. What is more, IT sits at the heart of everything to do with a business, and so the IT department suddenly needs to be able to work with everyone. To be able to do that they need to be able to understand everyone, or at least what everyone wants. There are two sides to this coin, of course, in that if every other department needs to get the best support they can from IT then they need to be able to explain their requirements in an appropriate way.

Seeing Both Sides Of The Coin

Where the issues occur is that non IT specialists often cannot provide the specificity that IT specialists expect. They do not know enough about technology to tell the developers what they want, instead they have a rough idea of what they want it to do. Often, they are actually asking for help and input, although they might not have said it in so many words, not just delivering a spec.

Demanding this can result in specs that do not work for either side. The business teams are frustrated that they got something that did not meet their needs as they did not know what to ask for, and the development teams are frustrated that they are being asked to build something in what they can see to be an inferior way.

For departments used to collaborative, holistic working it may seem odd to have to explicitly invite colleagues to contribute ideas. For departments used to building and engineering it may seem odd to make alternative suggestions as to how to best accomplish the same result.

Of course people do the job they do (or should) because they have a aptitude for it, specific skills might need to be taught but the ways of working come naturally to them. No one is saying that skills need to be duplicated to the point of redundancy, but developing a shared language can bridge the gap between teams, promote understanding, and demonstrably impact the bottom line.

If only there were some sort of business equivalent to the Rosetta Stone that could provide a common point between the two languages. Well, as it happens, there is, and that thing is user experience data.

All For One, and One For All

The thing that is common to all departments in an organisation is a need for the organisation itself to perform well. Without that, there will be no organisation and no department in which to have a job! The performance of most organisations is measured by how well they serve their target audiences, confirmed by what they receive in return, usually financial compensation. If target audiences are not happy, if they don’t have a good experience when interacting with the organisation they will go elsewhere, possibly taking others with them or dissuading them from every trying to interact in future.

Unless organisations can correlate, analyse and understand the relationship between experience, behaviour and and system performance the possibility of losing business or damaging brand due to poor technical performance is of increasingly likely for organisations with complex, multichannel offerings.

Innovative monitoring needs to link technical performance with user centric thresholds and targets to clearly show the impact of server performance on the bottom line. This “Dynamic User Journey” focused approach ensures monitoring is built around customer needs and strategic business direction.

In this way understanding user experience should be the key to understanding strategic aims, and each other.

Cutting edge monitoring tools should provide a “single point of truth” and a common language that encourages and facilitates cross departmental discussion. Even better, the teams should have worked together to configure those tools and agree which user journeys should be monitored, and what the KPIs are and why. When this happens you suddenly you have a very powerful multi-skilled team all able to contribute what they do best towards strategic business goals.

Using such tools, in such an environment, development teams will be able not only to comment on existing systems or proposed developments, they will be able to predict problems and take pre-emptive action as recognisable patterns emerge, protecting both users and the business.

Speaking a Common Language

Of course the online, multichannel systems in place in most organisations now are hugely more complex and sophisticated than “the web site”, and in all probability involves the use of diverse internal and external systems, components and content providers, not to mention the number of different agreements that may be in place to handle logistics, support or any number of other things with external 3rd parties governed by SLAs. The transparency provided by everyone using the same data makes everything easier to manage and understand.

Providing a “single point of truth” allows the information from server monitoring to be used and understood at all levels of the organisation. This data is immediately actionable for support and operations teams, and also enables wider data driven discussion and decisions for purchasing and resource allocation.

With numbers clearly showing impact on User Journey performance the financial justification for decisions and requests can be easily demonstrated.

Ensuring that everyone has access to the same information, but in a format that is readily understandable by, and appropriate to, them is a huge part of this process. Simple, intuitive, business based visualisations and summaries are provided for non-technical people while the operations and support team have access to a fully integrated suite of advanced diagnostic and analysis tools, fine grained controls and alerting and reporting functions. This means that teams from across the business can work easily together with the SV Portal as a simple, single point of contact. Meetings become more efficient and productive, solutions can be found more readily and valuable time focused on improvements rather than firefighting.

A Single Point of Truth

SV-Monitoring Suite provides vital metrics and business intelligence, measuring real time performance, availability and consistency of journeys across your website as experienced by end users. The result is more valuable, customer-focused data on which you can base future site improvements, measure customer experience and ROI.

SV-Monitor measures the performance, availability and consistency of journeys as experienced by end users in realtime, whether for completing a simple task or conducting the most complicated multi-page transactions.

It is the product used primarily by Operations teams, Development Teams and Service and Delivery managers who all have a huge interest in what is happening on the servers.

SV-Real Browser delivers the crucial insights and information needed by your technical and marketing teams about your customers’ real online experience. Using a middle performance band browser it enables marketing, brand, usability and eCommerce teams to experience what real users do when they interact with your site and applications.

It is the product used primarily by Marketing, UX, brand and web design teams who work with AJAX and javascript and want to know the effect it has for real users.