By Alessandro Scotti, Aricent
The evolution of a product is driven by many different sources: market analysis, competition, corporate strategy, vision and customer feedback are all important factors.
In the last years, we have seen increasing attention to users, and in particular to how and why they use and enjoy (or dislike) a product.
In a past not too far away, it was all about features: "my product does this, this and that... does yours?"
It took a while to realize that features do little good if nobody is able to use them, or worse, if using them is unpleasable and frustrating. That's the moment when managers started adding the magic words "easy to use" to all feature requests.
And you know, everybody agrees that a product should be "easy to use" but how to do that in practice?
With no alternative in place, engineers were tasked with this job too. And despite a lot of effort, the progress was slow if at all. As it turns out, the same engineering principles that have been giving us tremendous advances in technology and software development do not work particularly well when applied to usability and other user-centered applications.
Fortunately, research on this topic was very active elsewhere and growing more and more fruitful. It would soon meet software engineering.
In very successful book "The design of everyday things", Donald Norman analyzed some of the most important principles of user-centered design, giving plenty of examples that are easy to find in our daily experience. A good design may not only make an object easy to use, but also pleasurable to use, and free from errors. Some thirty years later, computers and many types of computing devices have become part of our life, and these principles apply.
But how to put user-centered design in practice? We've already seen engineers trying, without much success. Maybe, the problem should be approached from a different perspective.
In the early 1980's, just a few years before Norman's book, seminal papers from Nigel Cross and Bryan Lawson discussed the "designerly ways of knowing", that is how designers get to solve a problem. Experiments conducted on architectural students (the "designers") and science students (the "engineers") showed that these groups had a very different approach to problem solving: designers tended to focus on the solution, generating many possibilities and testing later to see what works, while engineers focused on the problem, trying to fully understand the rules and constraints so that a satisfactory solution could be produced.
It turns out that the designers approach works incredibly well for humans (maybe that's not too surprising).
Arguably, the most successful discipline so far to incorporate these principles and put them in practice has been Design Thinking. Design Thinking is an iterative process designed to solve human-centered problems. The process works even when the problem boundaries are not clearly defined. It starts by empathizing with the user, understanding the problem from the user perspective, then identifying the critical points that need to be addressed and creatively ideating solutions. These solutions are tested using cheaply disposable prototypes such as pencil sketches on paper, and the process repeats generating better and better solutions until the entire problem is solved in a satisfactory way.
And to bring an example of what such a process can bring when it works in synergy with start of the art software and hardware engineering, let me pay a predictable but always well-deserved tribute to a modern masterpiece and one of the most influential design ever: Apple's iPhone.
At a slow but steady pace, the same design principles are working their way into IBM's enterprise software. A few years ago, IBM Control Desk launched Service Portal, a modern, configurable UI that greatly simplifies and speeds up the product operations for users and agents.
Today, handling tickets and approvals has just become even easier and faster with ICD's Mobile App, a native mobile application based on user-centered design principles and research, and built from the ground up using state-of-the-art processes and technologies.
We think it's not only great to look at, but also enjoyable and productive. We think users will agree too!
ICD Mobile App is available for iOS and Android on their respective app stores, free for IBM Control Desk customers.
The Mobile App is designed by Frog Design, a world leading design firm with almost 50 years of history, and engineered by Aricent, both companies of the Altran group, this app allows agent to quickly search, view, edit, update, and close tickets and approval records.
Aricent has partnered with IBM to expand IBM’s Cloud Product Portfolio to deliver new digital experiences and intelligent automation. The partnership focuses on client success. The IBM Control Desk roadmap includes cognitive ITSM, ChatOps, enhanced native mobile capabilities, improved integration with Maximo, and expanding into new use cases in the service portal.
Find out more about IBM Control Desk here on IBM Knowledge Center.
For more information, please contact:
IBM Offering Manager: Bruce Dillon firstname.lastname@example.org