Put the “use” in user experience

This is the third in a series of posts highlighting the emerging trends and issues of information management, cloud-based file sharing, and collaboration.

Ask the typical business end user what improvements they want to see from a given software solution and most would respond with some form of “better usability”. As such, enterprise software vendors will often trot out this term when describing their solutions. Solutions are always being touted as “more usable” than their predecessors or their competition. But what exactly does usability mean with respect to enterprise software? Is it simply eye-catching interfaces that can be easily customized? Is it the automation of simpler, tedious tasks?

I would argue that usability is none of these; it is far more short-lived. Simply put, usability is how closely the software aligns with user requirements. As we previously defined when considering collaboration, the requirements for User Information Management (UIM) are dynamic. In a very general sense, there are only two overarching requirements that matter:

How much access to tactical information and records do users need?
How much control is required over the access and movement of information?

Collaboration Requirements are Dynamic
The “dynamic nature” of collaborator requirements.

Any other requirements beyond access to information and control are simply just details for the RFP.

For most, these details should be easy to generate – they will be drawn directly from your information governance plan (which you have, right?).

While it’s true that more detailed requirements are dynamic, there are ten that should at least be considered for a UIM product:

1.    Mobile first design – Can a user review documents and do basic editing on a tablet or smartphone?
2.    Logical user experience – Do the buttons and graphics meet user and device needs? How difficult is it to hide/show graphics and information?
3.    Information use management – Can users meet the organization’s expectations for document control?
4.    Role based audit logs – Does the information presented to users makes sense for their individual document versioning needs?
5.    One-step sharing – Can users easily collaborate on documents across the company?
6.    Adding metadata – Can users add tags to documents? Can the system recognize and prompt users based on metadata already associated with the file?
7.    Integration into enterprise rights management – Can the access management settings be inherited through the enterprise security management systems; (i.e. Active Directory or EIM/ECM products)?
8.    Two-way drag and drop – Can content be moved to and from the product via drag and drop?
9.    Vendor has additional cloud products – Since the information that UIM is hosting is part of your existing processes, how will the vendor fit into your information usage beyond individual users?
10.    Vendor believes in security – Information is an asset to your enterprise. The vendor that houses it should respect that and be able to match your level of concern.

UIM doesn’t exist in a vacuum; remember that you are competing with already purchased products to fill a gap(s) in your information management portfolio. Because of this, it’s likely that some of the above requirements won’t be important to you. The relative weighting of requirements should be based on your own use cases for the product.

Ultimately, the winning solution is one that will support users’ information movement needs – whether it be within a process, between collaborators, or to the physical location of the user – all while balancing the need for organizational visibility into that movement. To facilitate this, it is likely that the solution will have comment, or task creation, integration into a productivity suite (Office, Google Apps – or even LibreOffice) and will be accessible by both browser and application.

These solutions are, however, not a replacement for a full EIM/ECM product nor should integration be a key requirement. The goal of UIM is to support users in managing in progress and group knowledge, not business critical tactical and records management information.

From a usability perspective, the overlap occurs when users access the tactical information and records they need in order to create the group knowledge and in progress information. This is not a product issue, but rather an IT and compliance issue: are the classifications appropriate to allow access, what can we allow users to export to the UIM, and how do we make those documents/sources visible?

That is not to say that risk mitigation is not part of what UIM can bring to the organization; it can, but that is a secondary function and must come from your larger information management and governance plan. That is a topic for another day and will be the subject of the next blog.

View the first and second blogs in this series.

Chris Wynder

Chris is the Product Marketing Manager for ApplicationXtender. He has a wealth of information management knowledge, particularly in highly regulated industries. He shares his deep belief in analysis and taxonomy as the basis of good information governance in his blogs.

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