User Psychology and Experience

Often times when designing a product or solution for a customer, in planning and concept development, we might consider the user experience to be one of two (or both) things:

  1. User feedback regarding their interaction with their technological environment/platforms
  2. The experience the user is likely to have with given technology based on various factors that contribute to delivering that technology to them; presentation, training, accessibility, necessity, intuitiveness, just to name a few.

These factors are not solely focused on the user and their role in the human – technology interaction process, but also their experience of dealing with us as solution providers. That is to say, the way in which we engage the experience and behaviour of the user is just as important to the delivery of new technology to them, as is developing our own understanding of a broader sense of human interfacing technology behaviour. UX is a colourful – pun intended – profession/skill to have within this industry. Sales pitches, demos and generally ‘wowing the crowd’ are a few of the ways in which UX-ers can deploy their unique set of skills to curve user behaviour and responsiveness in a positive direction, for the supplier especially.

Not all behavioural considerations with regards to technology are underpinned by the needs or requirements of a user, however. There are more general patterns of behaviour and characteristics within people, particularly in a working environment, that can be observed, to indicate how a user experiences [new] technology, including functionality and valued content that, at a base level, captures a user’s attention. The psychology of this attention can be broken down into a simplified pathology: the working mechanisms of perception as a reaction to stimulus, and how consistent the behaviour is that develops out of this. The stimulus mentioned are usually the most common ones when relating to technology; visual, auditory.

You’ve likely heard of, or experienced first-hand, the common types of attention in everyday life. The main three are identified as selective, divided and undivided. Through consistency of behavourial outcomes, or observing in a use case a consistent reaction to stimuli, we look to observe a ‘sustainability of attention or interest’ over an extended period of the time, even if repetition of an activity or a set of activities is involved. This means that the solution, or at very least, the awareness and training developed to sell a solution, should serve a goal of achieving sustainable attention.

How Can We Derive a Positive User Experience through Psychology?

Too much information equals lack of cognitive intake. From observation and general experience, a person’s attention, especially when captured within a session, a day or week, is a finite resource. Many other factors of an individual’s life can create a cocktail of emotions which makes people in general, unpredictable in a professional environment. The right amount of information, training and direct experience should be segmented based on a gauge of the audience’s attention. Including reflection exercises or on-the-spot feedback, especially in user training can give you a good measure of this. The mistake of cognitively overloading the user can be best seen when a series of options are present as viable routes to the desired solution or outcome. Too many options can, at worst, create confusion, an adversity to the solution and new technologies in general, and an overall messy user experience.

Psychology doesn’t have to be a full submersion into the human psyche, especially when it comes to understanding the user experience. Simple empathy can be a powerful tool to mitigate some of the aforementioned issues of attention and to prevent the cultivation of repeated adverse behaviour from users. When it boils down to the users, most scenarios in the way of behaviour and reaction have been seen and experienced before, irrespective of the technology being provided. Fundamentally, it is a human experience that [still] comes first before we look at bridging the user and the technology. For UX practitioners, tools are already in-place to achieve this such as user journey maps and story capturing,

There are new ideas still emerging around the discipline of user experience, ‘UX’. From my experience with it thus far, it presents a case that it could integrate very well with modern business analysis methodologies. It’s more than designing the solution, it’s solutions based on how we, the human element, are designed.

Kicking Things Off – Writing the Right SOW

It’s one thing to convert a conversation around a broad scope of work into a well-defined and articulated, 3 to 4-page proposal (sometimes 20 +, depending on whose template you’re using), it’s another thing for a client or customer to read through this document, often, multiple times due to a review and response cycle, before finally agreeing to it.

Most don’t enjoy this process. Client stakeholders usually look for a few key things when it comes to the SOW: price, time (hours) and key dates. Other parts are usually skimmed over or can be missed altogether, at least in my experience.

While the above might be nothing new, perhaps it’s time to ask ourselves whether there’s a better way of doing this – can the client business owner, or nominated stakeholder on behalf of the business owner, be more involved, collaboratively in the SOW writing process so that unified goal between supplier and customer be achieved?

Absolutely.

Recent engagements with various stakeholders have made me realise, as a business analyst, how crucial this aspect of the project is and can, at times, be a sore point to reference back to when the project is in-flight, and expectations don’t align with what is in writing. Therefore, entering an engagement with the mindset of getting semantics right from the get go might save from hindering any quality to delivering down the line.

Usually engaging in potential work with a client involves a conversation – not a sales pitch, just simply talking it through. What follows from here for effective SOW writing is what underpins any good collaborative effort – a channel of clear and responsive communication.

It’s best to idealise this process in stages:

  • After initial discussion, an email to prospective client containing a skeleton SOW that simply outlines the conversation that was had. This reaffirms the context and conveys listening and understanding from you as the potential solution/service provider. If the engagement is with a new client, convey some understanding of the context around the company
  • Avoid fluffing it out with proposal-sounding adjectives and dialogue, keep no-nonsense and to-the-point
  • Work with the client to clearly define what is expected to be delivered and how long it could potentially take, based on flexibility or constraints on resources for both sides
  • Define what it will cost based on all the known variables – avoid basing this on ambiguity or pre-gap analysis of the outlined work at this stage.
  • Add value to the SOW by considering if there’s a better way to do the proposed work. This is something I’ve found that Kloud always maintains when approaching a piece of work

By defining the ‘pre-sales’ in this way, and by communicating effectively with your client during a proposal, the ‘joyless’ experience of writing a SOW (as it can be commonly perceived) may be alleviated and player a smaller role in convincing your client to work with you.

It’s refreshing to view this process unlike a proposal, but rather a conversation. After the discovery call, we should establish confidence in the client with us as consultants. The only thing left to deal with now is the project itself.

 

 

 

SharePoint Integration for Health Care eLearning – Moving LMS to the Cloud

Health care systems often face challenges in the way of being unkept and unmaintained or managed by too many without consistency in content and harbouring outdated resources. A lot of these legacy training and development systems also wear the pain of constant record churning without a supportable record management system. With the accrual of these records over time forming a ‘Big Data concern’, modernising these eLearning platforms may be the right call to action for medical professionals and researchers. Gone should be the days of manually updating Web Vista on regular basis.
Cloud solutions for Health Care and Research should be well on its way, but the better utilisation of these new technologies will play a key factor in how confidence is invested by health professionals in IT providing a means for departmental education and career development moving forward.
Why SharePoint Makes Sense (versus further developing Legacy Systems)
Every day, each document, slide image and scan matters when the paying customer’s dollar is placed on your proficiency to solve pressing health care challenges. Compliance and availability of resources aren’t enough – streamlined and collaborative processes, from quality control to customer relationship management, module testing and internal review are all minimum requirements for building a modern, online eLearning centre i.e. a ‘Learning Management System’.
ELearningIndustry.com has broken down ten key components that a Learning Management System (LMS) requires in order to be effective. From previous cases, working in developing an LMS, or OLC (Online Learning Centre) Site using SharePoint, these ten components can indeed be designed within the online platform:

  1. Strong Analytics and Report Generation – for the purposes of eLearning, e.g. dashboards which contain progress reports, exam scores and other learner data, SharePoint workflows allows for progress tracking of training and user’s engagement with content and course materials while versioning ensures that learning managers, content builders (subject matter experts) and the learners themselves are on the same page (literally).
  1. Course Authoring Capability – SharePoint access and user permissions are directly linked to your Active Directory. Access to content can be managed, both from a hierarchical standpoint or role-based if we’re talking content authors. Furthermore, learners can have access to specific ‘modules’ allocated to them based on department, vocation, etc.
  1. Scalable Content Hosting – flexibility of content or workflows, or plug-ins (using ‘app parts’) to adapt functionality to welcome new learners where learning requirements may shift to align with organisational needs.
  1. Certifications – due to the availability and popularity of SharePoint online in large/global Enterprises, certifications for anywhere from smart to super users is available from Microsoft affiliated authorities or verified third-parties.
  1. Integrations (with other SaaS software, communication tools, etc.) – allow for exchange of information through API’s for content feeds and record management e.g. with virtual classrooms, HR systems, Google Analytics.
  1. Community and Collaboration – added benefit of integrated and packaged Microsoft apps, to create channels for live group study, or learner feedback, for instance (Skype for Business, Yammer, Microsoft Teams).
  1. White Labelling vs. Branding – UI friendly, fully customisable appearance. Modern layout is design flexible to allow for the institutes branding to be proliferated throughout the tenant’s SharePoint sites.
  1. Mobile Capability – SharePoint has both a mobile app and can be designed to be responsive to multiple mobile device types
  1. Customer Support and Success – as it is a common enterprise tool, support by local IT should be feasible with any critical product support inquiries routed to Microsoft
  1. Support of the Institutes Mission and Culture – in Health Care Services, where the churn of information and data pushes for an innovative, rapid response, SharePoint can be designed to meet these needs where, as an LMS, it can adapt to continuously represent the expertise and knowledge of Health Professionals.

Outside of the above, the major advantage for health services to make the transition to the cloud is the improved information security experience. There are still plenty of cases today where patients are at risk of medical and financial identity fraud due to inadequate information security and manual (very implicitly hands-on) records management processes. Single platform databasing, as well as the from-anywhere accessibility of SharePoint as a Cloud platform meets the challenge of maintaining networks, PCs, servers and databases, which can be fairly extensive due to many health care institutions existing beyond hospitals, branching off into neighbourhood clinics, home health providers and off-site services.

The Present [and Future] Landscape of Data Migrations

A rite of passage for the majority of us in the tech consultancy world is being a part of a medium to large scale data migration at some stage in our careers. No, I don’t mean dragging files from a PC to a USB drive, though this may have very well factored into the equation for some us. What I’m referencing is a planned piece of work where the objective is to move an entire data set from a legacy storage system to a target storage. Presumably, a portion of this data is actively used, so this migration usually occurs during a planned downtime period, ad communication strategy, staging, resourcing, etc.
Yes, a lot of us can say ‘been there, done that’. And for some us, it can seem simple when broken down as above. But what does it mean for the end user? The recurring cycle of change is never an easy one, and the impact of a data migration is often a big change. For the team delivering it can be just as stress-inducing – sleepless shift cycles, outside of hours and late-night calls, project scope creeping (note: avoid being vague in work requests, especially when it comes to data migration work), are just a few of the issues that will shave years off anyone who’s unprepared for what a data migration encompasses.
Back to the end-users, it’s a big change: new applications, new front-end interfaces, new operating procedures and a potential shake-up of business processes, and so on. Most opt and agree with the client to taper off the pain of the transition/change period, ‘rip the Band-Aid right off’ and move an entire dataset from one system to another in one operation. Sometimes, and dependent on context/platforms, this is a completely seamless exercise. The end user logs in on a Monday and they’re mostly unaware of a switch. Whether taking this, or a phased approach to the migration, there are signs showing in today’s technology services landscape that these operations are aging and become somewhat outdated.
Data Volumes Are Climbing…
… to put it mildly. We’re in a world of Big Data, and this isn’t only for Global Enterprises and Large Companies, but even mid-sized ones and for some individuals too. Weekend downtimes aren’t going to be enough – or aren’t, as this BA discovered on a recent assignment – and when your data amounts aren’t equitable to the actual end users you’re transitioning (the bigger goal is, in my mind, the transformation of the user experience in fact), then you’re left with finite amounts of time to actually perform tests, gain user acceptance, plan and strategise for mitigation and potential rollback.
Migration through Cloud Platforms are not yet well-optimized for effective (pain-free) Migrations
Imagine you have a billing system that contains somewhere up to 100 million fixed assets (active and backlog). The requirement is to migrate these all to a new system that is more intuitive to the accountants of your business. On top of this, the app has a built-in API that supports 500 asset migrations a second. Not bad, the migration will, therefore, take just under 20 days to complete. Not optimal for a project, no matter how much planning goes into the delivery phase. On top of this, consider the slowing down of performance due to user access going through an API or load gateway. Not fun.
What’s the Alternative?
In a world where we’re looking to make technology and solution delivery faster and more efficient, the future of data migration may, in fact, be headed in the opposite direction.
Rather than phasing your migrations over outage windows of days or weeks, or from weekend-to-weekend, why not stretch this out to months even?
Now, before anyone cries ‘exorbitant bill-ables’, I’m not suggesting that the migration project itself be drawn out for an overly long period of time (months, a year).
No, the idea is not to keep a project team around for unforeseen, yet to-be-expected challenges that face them as previously mentioned above. Rather, as tech and business consultants and experts, a possible alternative is redirecting our efforts towards our quality of service, to focus on change management aspect with regards to end-user adoption of a new platform and associated process, and the capability of a given company’s managed IT serviced too, not only support the change but in fact incorporate the migration into as a standard service offering.
The Bright(er) Future for Data Migrations
How can managed services support a data migration, without specialisation in, say, PowerShell scripting or experience in performing a migration via a tool or otherwise, before? Nowadays we are fortunate enough that vendors are developing migration tools to be highly user-friendly and purposed for ongoing enterprise use. They are doing this to shift the view that a relationship with a solution provider for projects such as this should simply be a one-off, and that the focus on migration software capability is more important than the capability of the resource performing the migration (still important, but ‘technical skills’ in this space becoming more of a level playing field).
From a business consultancy angle, an opportunity to provide an improved quality of service is presented by looking at ways in which we can utilise our engagement and discovery skills to bridge the gaps which can often be prevalent between managed services and an understanding of the businesses everyday processes. A lot of this will hinge on the very data being migrated. This can onset positive action from a business given time and with full support from managed services. Data migrations as a BAU activity can become iterative and via request; active and relevant data first, followed potentially by a ‘house-cleaning’ activity where the business effectively de clutters data which it no longer needs or is no longer relevant.
It’s early days and we’re likely still toeing the line between old data migration methodology and exploring what could be. But ultimately, enabling a client or company to be more technologically capable, starting with data migrations, is definitely worth a cent or two.

Psychodynamics Revisited: Data Privacy

business camera coffee connection
How many of you, between waking up and your first cup of hot, caffeinated beverage, told the world something about yourselves online? Whether it be a social media status update, an Instagram photo or story post or even a tweak to your personal profile on LinkedIn. Maybe, yes, maybe no, although I would hedge my bets that you’ve at least checked your notifications, emails or had a scroll through the newsfeed.
Another way to view this question would be: how many of you interacted with the internet in some way since waking up? The likeliness is probably fairly high.
In my first blog looking into the topic of Psychodynamics, I solely focused on our inseparable connection to modern technologies – smartphones, tablets, etc. – and the access that these facilitate for us to interact with the society and the world. For most of us, this is an undeniable truth of daily life. A major nuance of this relationship between people and technology and one that I think we are probably somewhat in denial about is the security and privacy of our personal information online.
To the Technology Community at large, it’s no secret that our personal data is proliferated by governments and billion dollar corporations on a constant basis. Whatever information – and more importantly, information on that information – that’s desired, going to the highest bidder, or for the best market rate. Facebook, for instance, doesn’t sell your information outright. That would be completely unethical and see devaluation to their brand trust. What it does is sell access to you, to the advertisers and large corporations connected through it, which in turn gives them valuable, consumer data, to advertise, target and sell back to you based on your online habits.
My reasoning for raising this topic in regard to psychodynamics and technological-behavioral patterns is for consultants and tech professionals to consider what data privacy means to our/your valued clients.
I was fortunate to participate this past week in a seminar hosted by the University of New South Wales’ Grand Challenges Program, established to promote research in technology and human development. The seminar featured guest speaker Professor Joe Cannataci, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy, who’s in town to discuss with our Federal Government recent privacy issues, specifically amid concerns about the security of the Government’s My Health Record system (see full discussion here on ABC’s RN Breakfast Show) Two key points raised during the seminar, and from Professor Cannataci’s general insights were:

  1. Data analytics targeting individuals/groups are focused largely on the metadata, not the content data of what an individual or group of individuals is producing. What this means is that businesses are more likely to not look at content as scalable unless there are metrics and positive/viral trends in viewership/content consumption patterns.
  2. Technology, it’s socialisation and personal information privacy issues are no longer specific to a generation — “boomers”, “millennials” — or context (though countries like China and Russia prohibit and filter certain URLs and web services). That is to say, in the daily working routine of an individual, their engagement with technology and the push to submit data to get a task done may, in some instances, formulate an unconscious processing pattern over time where we get used to sharing our personal information, adopting the mindset “well, I have nothing to hide”. I believe we’ve likely all been guilty of it before. Jane might not think about how sharing her client’s files with her colleague Judy to assist with advising on a matter may put their employer in breach of a binding confidentiality agreement.

 
My recent projects saw heavy amounts of content extraction and planning, not immediately considering the meta-data trends and what business departments likely needs were for this content, focusing on documented business processes over the data usage patterns. Particularly working with cloud technologies that were new for the given clients, there was a very basic understanding of what this entailed in regards to data privacy and the legalities around this (client sharing, data visibility, GDPR, to name a few). Perhaps a consideration here is investigating further how these trends play into and, possibly, deviate business processes, rather than look at them as separate factors in information processing.
Work is work, but so is our duty to due diligence, best practices and understanding how we, as technology professionals, can absolve some of these ethical issues in today’s technology landscape.
For more on Professor Joe Cannataci, please see his profile on the United Nations page.
Credit to UNSW Grand Challenges Program. For more info, please see their website or follow their Facebook page (irony intended)

Branding the Consultant: what can I do versus where can I add the most value?

Engaging new and potentially challenging clients can always be daunting, particularly when an expectation has been set as to what role you will play as a part of a team. Whether consulting and road-mapping potential outcomes and future work, to delivering a full project. In my time working with Kloud, the broader sense of the term ‘consultant’ appears to be at an all-time high in terms of what it means to the professional marketplace. I view today’s Business Consultant as someone who guides an individual stakeholder or group, based on engaging and understanding given circumstances or a proposed business case, to help make decisions on adopting a specific direction – one which is considered the most appropriate or in their best interest.
The client, as we know them, usually comes with high expectations (surely, as they are paying good money for quality service), but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they know what they want right now. Solutions and recommended approaches aren’t always black and white and neither should be the decisions on whether to approach them or not i.e. providing a solution in the present versus future proofing based on projections of desirable future business outcomes.
So, before pulling the panic cord and calling for the chopper to extract you from a project where delivery may be stalling or responsibilities and requirements changing from one day to the next, perhaps narrow the window and focus on the objectives immediately in front of you. When targeting these immediate objectives look at which ones align with your strengths, not only in skills but also in your unique personality. Ask yourself– ‘What aspects of my skills and ability to provide the best services and outcomes for my clients allows for them, as well as my peers, to identify my own, unique brand?’

Business Case Example

A medium-sized business had already taken steps to progress out of it’s technological infancy, by purchasing the necessary software and scoping infrastructure requirements for where it intended it’s future state to be. However, with a limited business case from key stakeholders, time and resources available for business discovery exercises, and ability for IT to meet the support demands of the business, a series of challenges looked to stifle the enabling of these software and infrastructure solutions. From a technical standpoint, the IT staff where highly capable, but required analytical and consulting capability to aid the transition.
However, the CIO remained adamant on the direction he desired the company to head in, and so in engaging with external consultants and allowing an almost agile-like engagement with the various business departments, was able to focus on the larger picture of developing their internal IT as a technological innovation body, as well as a support function, while having the staff engage collaboratively in the transition to the new technological state. The engagement with consultants who had to act flexibly due to the lack of time and business case development allowed for a situation where they were, in turn, able to challenge themselves, drawing on past experience, apply skills outside of their portfolio and self-educate on the solution(s), to deliver the desired outcomes for the project. The end result was inciting positive attitudes towards, and a broadened understanding of IT as well as the community-building effects that these modern technologies could have on the business.
While this specific situation might be nothing new to some consultants out there, the value in strengthening your brand through outcomes that flow into positive effects for a client’s company is something that is not always achieved, but should be a key focus, particularly when offering guidance and advising on a solution.

TheOracleOpportunity.indd

Personality Attributes of a Technical Consultant (Ref. ILoveOracle.com)

Applying the most valuable aspects of your skill set to the appropriate situation has the potential to not only yield bigger wins for your project, but also show the client a level of capability and control that allows for an investment of trust, something that in the long-term, is an invaluable intangible between consultant, client, the team (Kloud) and your (Kloudie) unique brand of consulting.
Be sure that, in empowering and promoting your own brand, you don’t forget about the team. Part of your strength and value can be your resourcefulness, not just your individual skill. In a present technological landscape endorsing constant collaboration, there’s no harm in not knowing what you don’t know – just be willing to ask and learn. Know that giving time to self-evaluation and development translates to value added in the long-term, at least in from my experience.

Psychodynamics: Are We Smarter Than The Device?

PhonePeople

How did you know about this blog post?

It’s likely that you were notified by your smartphone or device, the notification itself as a part of trundle that you’re figuratively swiping left in-between email reminders about upcoming events and direct messages from your favourite social media. Or you were trawling your usual network feeds for updates to catch your attention.
Now if you were to time the window in which you check your smart device again for notifications, new messages or general updates, I’d bet that this window would be within a minute or just outside of it, and would require no prompting whatsoever… much like, say, breathing?
On the way to lunch this past week I had to tell three pedestrians to “Look up!” because they were walking on their smartphones while walking through the mess of the CBD at lunch time and just asking for some bad luck to go down. One was even across the intersection while the walk sign was red! Roadworks or not. However these smart device distractions amongst societal situations where we should become actively engaged, are becoming less distractive and more the norm.
Admittedly, I’ve been guilty of this also (stands up in anonymous meeting group circle) “Hi everyone, it’s been 24 days, 4 hours and 19 minutes since my last smart device infringement…”
Separating norms, habits and addictions have become difficult in this regard. A study conducted last year on 205 users, ranging from ages 16 to about 64, and spanning across the UK, China, Australia and the US, drew a preliminary conclusion that people grow emotionally attached to their smartphones. Obviously, a lost or stolen phone can be replaced, and even more conveniently, the data backup restored to the replacement. However the same cannot be said for a lost pet dog for instance.
The study in fact suggests that the emotional connection comes from is the connectivity and community the device facilitates – what we’re actually sacrificing for behavioural controls is the luxury of functionality.
It is with the ease of which these devices can be used, the ability to pour one’s life into apps and social networks, customise and personalise options, is what creates the need for us to be close to it, the loss of it coming with the emotional baggage of disconnection and an inability to “interact substantially”.
Do we know what life was like before this? I would say kind of, but maybe in another ten years’ time, not so much. Sure, we still have to get off our butts for some of our daily activities, but as we move, so does our devices, both figuratively and literally.
We’re well and truly plugged in; it’s the world we live in now. I can get my plumbing fixed and a slice of cake brought to my doorstep by a complete stranger on a single app (and trust that it will happen). Why not?
For further reading on the study, see the article under Computers in Human Behaviour.

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