Archives for September 2015

September 23, 2015 - No Comments!

Woman In Tech: Emily Williams

Infor Apple Watch

Emily Williams is the senior product manager for Infor Ming.le™, a groundbreaking business collaboration platform. Over the past three years, Emily’s vision and leadership have brought Infor Ming.le to desktop, mobile, and, now, to the Apple Watch.

How would you describe your job to a stranger?
My mentor, Massimo Capoccia, says that being a product manager is like being a spider in the middle of the web. You have all these different teams—engineering, design, support, sales—coming to you and you’re the singular point in the middle of it all. You are your product’s number one advocate, so it’s your job to uphold its vision and make sure everyone else is working toward it.

Infor Ming.le for Apple Watch launched in the App Store this week. Why did you and your team decide to make an app for the Apple Watch?
Infor Ming.le and Apple Watch are a match made in tech paradise. The very essence of Infor Ming.le is to help users stay constantly informed and up-to-date. And then you have the Apple Watch, which is on you—physically on you—at all times. So let’s say you’re meeting with your boss or eating lunch with some colleagues or visiting a client—it’s really rude to pull out your phone every time it buzzes, but people still do it all the time because they don’t want to miss anything important. Infor Ming.le for Apple Watch delivers only the most relevant and time-sensitive information to your wrist. You can easily glance at it—probably without anyone noticing—when an alert comes in and instantly know whether you can ignore it or if you need to act.

How was it different than building Infor Ming.le for mobile and web?
We’ve designed each version of Infor Ming.le according to the way users interact with each device. The web version allows users to dig in if they need to, but they can also just check their latest updates and get in and out within a minute. For mobile, we took that down to thirty seconds. And now, with the Apple Watch app, we’re only delivering super-quick headlines so that a user can simply glance down and get the full story within just a few seconds.

What’s next for Infor Ming.le?
We’re thinking about gamification. I’ve seen other vendors use gamification where they’re like, “Oh, Billy posted 100 times, he gets a star.” But that’s not useful. I think it will be really meaningful if we can add gamification elements to core business processes. Take, for example, order to cash. That process might take a company two or three weeks. We’re exploring ways to gamify the experience and help users get it down to ten days. Gamification shouldn’t be about acknowledging someone when they’ve done a task that they’re supposed to do. It should help motivate employees along the way and celebrate them when they succeed.

What is your proudest achievement?
Taking Infor Ming.le to market. I’ve been working on this product since the very beginning, when it was just an idea and a few mock-ups. Now we have this real product that customers love using to help run their businesses.

Do you have any advice for girls who are interested in tech?
Learn to code. If you can code, you’re going to rule the world.

Read about the making of Infor Ming.le for Apple Watch in this blog post by the app’s designer, Maksim Petriv.

September 3, 2015 - No Comments!

Creating great enterprise UX for the people, with the people

Mary UX Research

One of the major hurdles in enterprise user experience is that the people who use the software (“the users”) are usually not the ones who get to select it (“the choosers”). Users, whether they like it or not, are stuck with whatever the choosers pick. This isn’t an issue in itself—after all, just because enterprise users are a captive audience, doesn’t mean the software has to be of lower quality. The real problems surface when product teams don’t consider the needs of this captive audience and only develop software with the choosers in mind. This is one of the main reasons why enterprise UX has lagged so far behind its consumer counterpart, and it’s one of the key issues I look to rectify when I’m conducting my research.

Amazing usability can’t be achieved without a deep understanding of your users, but unfortunately, enterprise software can be a challenging space to acquire that understanding. While it’s easy to interact regularly with the choosers, the end-users in an enterprise scenario are typically much less accessible.

Unlike web-based research projects, you can’t just pluck a random user off the street to test your enterprise software and then send them on their way with an Amazon gift card. It takes some Nancy Drew-style sleuthing to get in contact with potential interviewees, making the act of navigating through organizational barriers an incredibly time-consuming and frustrating process. Often, the choosers won’t even know the users personally, meaning that you’ll have to go down several levels in hierarchy and across multiple departments just to get in touch with them. Still, connecting with actual users is critical to success, and it’s well worth the steep investment of time.

What can we do to connect with our users? Since they are usually unable to come to us, then we must go to them. In enterprise UX, customer site visits are crucial. We’ve found it enormously beneficial to familiarize ourselves with environmental factors such as the devices they use and where they sit— in an open office or a cubicle, on the shop floor, or if they rarely sit at all.

Mary UX Research B

Rethinking methods

Connecting with users is only half the battle. Applying the right methods to the project is the other big challenge. For example, when it comes to learning more about users, I’ve discovered that it’s often better to evaluate them by creating “profiles” instead of the “personas”. Whereas personas create fictional, nebulous user archetypes based on market research and user data, user profiles are much more qualitative. Based on secondary research including job postings, LinkedIn profiles, and industry-specific websites, it provides me with more than just a description of my user: It tells me what they’re doing, it tells me how they’re doing it, and it allows me to better design an experience to suit their needs.

The best part about creating a user profile is that you don’t necessarily have to jettison the user persona approach. I’ve found a happy medium between the two, leveraging user profiles to create a few hypotheses that are either validated or invalidated by conducting user interviews. These interviews offer additional context about the users, such as how their role fits into the larger organization or a better idea of what stage in the process their work might apply.

A successful enterprise UX project considers the user needs, client objectives, and organizational priorities, striking a perfect balance to please every stakeholder in the process. It takes persistence and mental flexibility in no small amount, but at Hook & Loop, making users happy in the workplace is a key component of success—for both our users and us.