Digital solutions can solve critical challenges among firstline workforces, but these initiatives often fail. In our last blog, we discussed one reason why such initiatives fail: skipping strategic planning and diving right into development. Another common reason for failure is not getting enough input from end users when creating your solution.
In this scenario, the wrong way looks like this: the IT or development team talks to a few end users in an office conference room, asking about their challenges. Or, even worse, IT is just provided a laundry list of requirements for the end solution and they just start building.
Simply having a list of requirements—or even a short conversation—isn’t enough to truly understand the end user experience. Planning in a vacuum ignores the end users’ daily real-world processes, challenges, and use cases. Many development teams are guilty of this, but we commonly see it with internal IT teams, as they don’t typically have the bandwidth to conduct more in-depth field interviews.
As noted above, the problem with this approach is that the IT team misses so many nuances of the end user’s daily work and environment. For example, the IT team may know the field workers have a mobile computing device available on-site and create a solution based on that assumption. But if the mobile computer is hard-mounted in a vehicle that isn’t easy for workers to access, the solution becomes inefficient and potentially unusable in real-life scenarios.
If IT doesn’t understand the realities of the end users’ day-to-day work, they won’t be able to create a solution that effectively addresses the field workers’ needs. This leads to end-user frustration at being given a “new solution” that doesn’t work, plus possible resentment at their IT and business leaders who don’t understand their needs.
At the end of the day, the end users won’t adopt the solution, and the company must spend more time and money to fix it or start from scratch.
How to do it right
You may have guessed that the way to remedy this situation is for the IT/development team to spend time with end users out in the field before designing or developing anything. This offers a number of benefits:
- The design and development team can truly understand the end user experience, including daily workflows, existing processes, and challenges, so the final solution works seamlessly for the worker (rather than the worker needing to accommodate the new technology). The end result is a more intuitive solution and better adoption down the road.
- There are likely several issues that could be addressed with technology, but it isn’t feasible to solve them all at once. Working from a list of requirements, it’s nearly impossible to prioritize what will make the biggest impact. Spending time with field workers on-site makes it easier to see what solutions and features will really have an impact on their day-to-day jobs.
- By significantly involving end users early in and throughout the process, the IT team can get their buy-in early and the users can become advocates for success.
Here are some simple ways for an IT/development team to get started:
- Observe the processes of the workers, along with the exact roadblocks they face and questions they ask.
- Instead of replacing huge processes or tasks, it’s often more feasible to increase efficiency or remove cumbersome steps from a process. For example, if a worker must regularly handwrite notes then type them up later when they get back to a depot or office, a smart solution may allow them to input notes into a mobile device on the spot, removing a step.
- Always focus on what is practical for the worker. If the field workers use their hands a lot, a hands-free device makes more sense to seamlessly integrate into their routine. Likewise, if the job site is fairly noisy, a solution with voice controls won’t be successful.
- After initially spending time with end users, the development team should create prototypes based on the information they gathered.
- Finally, it is critical to test prototypes with those same end users, identify what works and what doesn’t, iterate and repeat, until the ideal solution is achieved.
More success strategies
Have you had a tech initiative for your firstline workers fail to meet the intended results? Or are your field workers facing current challenges that you need to address?
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