Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Where are “U” in the user experience?

What part of U 

This post is a result of the last few days and the constant reminding I have I had to give me team.  In the midst of a technical system failure it becomes so easy to lose track of the users, your role and the role of the people you are speaking to.  From the people, processes and tools approach I adhere to this post is clearly dealing with people issues. These issues are a direct reflection of how they interact with the tools and the processes.  I am a true believer in everyone is accountable for their actions and interactions with others.

Know your role


If you are the support person and you are being asked by your superior a question then please do a baseline assessment.  The mental assessment should go something like this “who are they?”, “what level of knowledge do they have?”, “How much context do I have to provide before I give the deeper answer?”.  It should not be “WHY are they asking”.  This is insulting to the person asking the question.  If your superior has asked a question please answer it.  If you want to have an esoteric mind conversation on the “why” and “conspiracy theories” do it on your own time.  For the most part when someone asks a question they really want an answer. If this is the typical courtesy “how are you today?” then by all means feel free to lie.  But when they ask a question of you because you are the support person, then answer with facts and stay on point.

If your role is support then please provide some.  Remember that you are being asked for your advice and consul to fix a problem.  It may not be your fault or it may be.  That should not affect the facts. Also get over yourself.  Just because you know more then the person who asked the question does not mean you know it all.  You may be surprised what the user and your superior know that could make you look silly if they choose to.  Do not give them a reason to exercise that option.

Treat both the user and your superiors with respect.  You do not have to like them to respect them.  This is a great position to take with anyone you work with, play with or live with.

Speak in the language and context of the person you are speaking to.  If the end user is from warehousing don’t be throwing acronyms their way or speak in geek speak.  Try to use their language.  If you do not know and you want to be successful then you should start to ask questions of them to educate you on the problem in their language.  Picture yourself in a foreign land with a foreign language and you need to get some directions.  Break the communications down to that level. They are likely the master’s of their domain and you can learn something from them instead of telling them things that make your world easier.

End user

If you are an end user and there has been a system failure you have a role to play as well.  It is a very important role.  You are the recipient of the direct pain of not having your system working.  You need to provide more insight then “it doesn’t work”.  Or my personal favourite, “I can’t get my work done and it’s IT’s fault”.  It may be the Information technology’s department fault or it may be what you the end user did.  Either way we need each other to get the problem resolved.  Please keep the drama for your friends in the lunch room and not for the ones who are trying to help.

Please pay attention to what you do when you are using a system and/or a process.  I know us IT folks like to poke fun at the dumb users but hey users get paid to do a job too and that job is rarely a direct result of the technology.  Sometimes it is and then I personally get frustrated when for example a programmer who uses a computer all day to do their job has to have the infrastructure group setup the new monitors or keyboards.  Come on .. . .  get real.  This is tantamount to driving a car and not knowing how to put fuel in it.  Yes I know they exist out there and they are also breeding but someone needs to educate them or better yet slap them.


If you are the leader please pay attention.  First, I did not use the word manager because that is completely different and was explained in a different post.  The leader has to assess all the facts and from all the players.  Do not get caught in the drama.  Stick to the facts, assess what and who is impacted.  Find out “what changed?”.  Have all parties quantify their statements.  I use the line “what evidence do you have to support your position?”  I get amazing results from this approach.  First it disarms those who want to finger point and it also forces the team to stay on facts and not conjecture.  Following my fact based strategy will save many cycles and reduce stress.

Prove and/or disprove all the theories coming at you.  Your role is to direct the flow of information and more importantly to get the decisions made.  Sometimes these decisions are not made by you but you need to get these decisions made by the correct people. 

You also need to ensure that all parties are not crossing boundaries.  This is very common in large projects and  when people start to influence peddle like a bunch of politicians at voting time.

Be confident of your role and do not let others dissuade you from your role.  It is not good for the team or for you.


Each and everyone of us has a role to play and the role changes as the situation changes.  Sometimes you are the leader, sometimes you the end user and other times you are the support person.

Each and every time you enter a new situation take the time to observe the roles of others and more importantly yourself.  This goes for when we are in informal situations as well.  The best leaders have proven they were also excellent followers. 

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