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Designing better organisations: Why internal user experience matters to delivering better services

I see very few organisations that think enough about the experience of their staff (especially when it comes to technology). If your internal user experience is broken then, as an organisation, you probably don’t care enough about user experience (full stop).

If you look around your organisation you will see what really matters to everyone. If staff spend most of their time fighting with inadequate internal systems locked to slow, or broken, technology then this communicates one thing: “as an organisation we don’t care enough about user experience, starting right here with how we work together and communicate”.

Better services are the result of transformed organisations

It sound obvious but it takes a different type of organisation and working culture to deliver a transformed set of services in an digital-age.

Most organisations fail to deliver digital and technology projects to any meaningful level of success because they can’t unpick their own ways of working, struggling to challenge and change prevailing work culture and practices. These are organisations that don’t think enough about the tools and processes they equip their staff with.

Starting with your own processes

If you want to transform your organisation a good place to start is with your own processes and internal systems. This is everything from how you run payroll, to how you pay employee expenses.

Internal user experience isn’t just about technology. Your internal systems could be anything from software, right through to paper spreadsheets or a filling cabinet. All of these things require people’s time, energy and focus as part of a process that enables them to get things done. The biggest problems here are processes that rely on ‘special knowledge’. This is when the success of internal processes depend on knowing someone who knows the system or how to get around it.

The most important people in your organisation are your ‘front line’, or the operators of your customer-facing service. These are your first end-users. If you don’t give them the right tools and open ways of working this will eventually be reflected in your service delivery

Internal user experience will catch up with you

Bad internal user experience creates a burden that means the people in your organisation won’t always have the motivation, time, or will power to do what it takes to deliver a level of service that is going to work best for your customers.

For example, I’ve recently sat through health check ups, eye tests, and financial transactions where I can hear the audible sigh of the professional in the room having to navigate an IT system that wasn’t designed around them or to be effective for them. This creates a pressure against the expectation I have for the level of service I’m getting and proves to be a visible distraction away from my situation and reason for being there.

Full and complete focus on the needs of a customer or patient is what I’d define as delivering service excellence. Any other distractions or points of failure are limiting the attention needed for someone to deliver the best possible service or individual outcomes.

By designing better functioning organisations, or with happier more effective staff supported by efficient tools and processes, we remove the excuse for bad customer service and user experience.

At the very least we’re able to think about what good service design and delivery might look like without the multiple points of process and technology failure that hold back so many organisations.

Ben Holliday is an experienced design leader, writer and speaker. This is his blog (started in 2005). You can follow all of Ben's blog posts by subscribing to the RSS feed, or follow him on Twitter for more regular updates.