Enterprise applications carry a much greater scope and complexity when compared to consumer applications. EUX (Enterprise User Experience) is tailored for people working in specific roles of a specific business domain. The Cost of poorly designed enterprise applications results in huge negative impacts on the businesses.
A UX researcher carries the responsibility to unfold user stories and help teams to take better product decisions. But researchers working on EUX need to make an extra effort towards the following challenges…
In-depth Domain Knowledge
Enterprise applications represent entire systems of user interfaces and interactions at different levels that enable business goals. To conduct research on E-Applications(Enterprise applications), one needs to pay greater attention to workflows. Also you need to make sure that the needs of each user role match up well with the way application flows from task to task. Understanding relativity between user roles and systems requires extensive insight into the domain with which the application is being used. We might need to deeply connect into legacy-enterprise systems and databases. Therefore, most EUX researchers end up focusing on a single domain or move between interlinked domains.
Understanding a domain is not a one-man job, But the best part of EUX is you are surrounded by experts. You can find people who are working on the applications from years and know things in and out. A researcher has to create bonding within product teams, collect the knowledge, and connect the dots. Once you have the basics of the domain you will learn more user front while conducting your research. Map the findings in a meaningful way by putting some extra efforts in creating eco-systems, service blueprints, and informative journey maps by using through domain understanding obtained from different phases of your studies.
Your Clients are not your users
Unlike consumer applications, your customers are not your users. An organization either built their own applications or bought a product to fulfill their enterprise needs. If the decision was to build, a researcher/UX professional will have had the opportunity to interact with actual users. If they utilized UX in their creation process. (Not all companies especially enterprise do)
In contrast, organizations which buy the product services — their users can usually only participate in an application’s configuration or defining the customizations they need from a vendor.
Most users of enterprise applications don’t have a choice about using them. … Furthermore, the people purchasing the application may not know — or care — much about exactly how all the users will be using it.
— Robert Reimann
People using enterprise applications are working on them because their job requires them to do so whether they like it or not. Hence the expectations from an enterprise application are high and people may become resentful if the application doesn’t allow them to get their job done effectively.
This means it is important to understand the users who will ultimately engage with our products or services. Modeling those people and segmenting our models into meaningful groups lets us explore different clusters of needs. Later we can address our solutions to meeting the needs of people belonging to specific clusters.
Understanding characters of your business segments
This is important for researchers of organizations who offer product services. You might have a large, medium and small business segments. Needs of all your business segments may seem similar from a product perspective but there is a major difference about people who work on it. A large organization might have different individual roles in a department who are dedicated to particular job functions. It shrinks down coming to medium business, resulting in people working with mixed functionalities. Small business organizations might have a single individual working for entire department roles. To promote better suggestions for all of them, a researcher needs to equally understand how people work individually vs teams.
Multiple personas VS single workflow
Enterprise systems usually have distributed functionalities along the lines of job roles — for example, payroll practitioner, payroll accountant, payroll manager, and financing officer. People in different roles often have workflows and data flows that connect them. Each job function will have their own sets of user interfaces and functions. Most workflows process through a sequence of actions carried by different sets of users.
Taking it into consideration a researcher need to create protocols covering all the related audience of the workflow. Creating questions that elaborate on connecting actions between teams is also critical to unfold details of internal communication patterns and mutual dependencies.
Behaviors with Legacy systems
Majority of the enterprise system’s evolution curve is very static. Even today people are working on mainframe systems to accomplish their job needs. People learn parts of the application that are relevant to their work day by day. As a result, Efficiency becomes a crucial concern when a change happens in systems/processes. This makes users reluctant to any change that makes them go through a whole new learning curve for achieving the same job roles.
Understanding the current systems behavior patterns and focusing on expectations from a new system/added functionality requires great attention to the history of the product evolution how the users had been addressed.
EUX is far from a delighted user experience
Users in the enterprise world are not all that different from consumer users. In reality, they are the same people in different contexts. People know the difference of good experience, but EUX is still at a stage where simply eliminating few pain-points is considered a success story. Working on systems with pain every day-In and day-out grinds people down. This is the mental state of most of the users we see during research sessions. People wish to work with systems that are aligned with real-world experiences.
A researcher needs to be prepared to deal with the aggression people express for their systems. listen to what they say but actually, pay attention to how they really go about doing their jobs. Focus on things that can simplify complex workflows like inputs on where people need help, requirements of proactive suggestions, and contextual hints for navigating to external systems.
Validation of what users say and what they actually do
We want to trust what users are saying but EUX requires to verify that what users say is actually what they’re doing. Considering large enterprise projects with multiple user communities, painful data-integration points, and a business culture, it becomes ever more essential to know exactly who you should be listening to.
In such a context, UX researchers should consider taking in multiple streams of information from various groups and analyzing it. Then we have to double-check the findings with influencing factors such as the political and cultural issues of large enterprise projects, as well as their constrained development schedules. Finally, we have to figure out what we’re going to focus on and how we should implement our plan. This is a sobering task that can turn the most optimistic UX professional into a jaded person.