In my last blog, I wrote about the Public Sector ERP “Era of Cool.” It is incredibly fun to discuss what has now become the art of the probable as opposed to imagining the possible. I ended by asking everyone to demonstrate empathy by understanding the human problem first. How can we employ empathy when implementing new technology?
Finding the right balance – The saga of the missing suit coat
Finding the right balance when blending empathy and technology is important, and—when executed well—can leave a customer feeling extremely satisfied. When the formula is unbalanced, the opposite can happen.
For example, I recently left one of my favorite suit coats in a ride-sharing service car while in transit to the airport. I attempted to communicate multiple times with the driver and ultimately with the company itself. I was never able to reach an individual at the ride sharing service directly. Instead, I received multiple text responses including the words “saddened” and “I understand the importance of your suit.” It was evident that the messages were automated, and that the bot sending the texts was not emotionally relating to my situation.
Now granted, there are many scenarios where a human could have delivered the same words with an equal lack of empathy. In this case, while technology was able to deliver human-like responses, it failed (or rather its designers failed) in applying the principles of empathy to adequately interpret my situation and help find an amenable resolution.
The importance of baking empathy into your product or solution
In today’s technology landscape, both in business and public sector markets, it is becoming increasingly clear that empathy is needed to design elegant solutions that solve human problems and facilitate true digital transformation. For government, this means creating a solution that meets citizen and employee expectations. Demonstrating empathy not only enables you to create a solution based upon what is communicated, but also helps unearth the end users’ implicit needs. This ultimately will increase overall user satisfaction as well as help bolster pride in the environments in which they work and live.
There are many methods organizations can use to demonstrate empathy when implementing new technology, whether it’s in the fundamental product you provide to users out-of-the-box or how you execute on delivering the larger more holistic “solution.” Let’s take a further look.
The impact of empathy: placing humans at the core
Your technology may be responsive, but does it truly understand your users?
Placing end users at the center of your solution universe requires constantly asking the right questions, and adapting to the responses. Key questions include:
- Who is affected?
- Are we aligning to our users’ mental model?
- Do we understand their underlying needs?
- How will users feel about our application based upon the proposed solution?
- Have we asked the question “why” enough to truly understand the problem?
By keeping the human element at the forefront of product development, you will better meet the needs of end users. Some underlying methods to accomplish this transformational feat include, but are not limited to:
- Creating personas to understand the behaviors, attitudes and goals of end users
- Constructing mood boards to use application colors that help end-users feel calm while providing a sentiment of trustworthiness, stability and modern design in the application
- Building a design specifications guideline that serves as the foundation for creating a consistent look and feel across the product or solution
We can build substantial capability into off-the-shelf products by listening to our customers, assessing the evolving market, incorporating industry trends and even pre-configuring the product. Some refer to this last step as providing a “product-in-a-box.” There is a balance, though, between implementing an “out-of-the-box” application and configuring the right solution for an organization. Finding that balance is essential to success.
Design the right solution for your organization by solving the human problem
Every organization is different, with some requiring more flexibility and adaptability than others. The constant factor among all organizations, however, is the human factor—understanding the needs of people. Putting those needs at the forefront is vital to cultivating a business model that is attractive to employees and customers alike.
When it comes to enterprise resource planning (ERP), for example, many of the capabilities are consistent across the market. However, the underpinning details of your organization’s business processes, especially in the public sector, are where the nuances are necessary. Demonstrating empathy in creating an organization-specific, holistic solution, as opposed to out-of-the-box processes, helps further align to citizen and employee expectations. As an example, one’s empathy during the implementation analysis is the difference between creating a solution that does what is asked, vs. an elegant solution that understands the underlying needs.
So, how do you avoid the black mark from your users (like the ride sharing company from my suit coat saga)? Take an approach to technology that melds innovation and empathy, keeping the wants and needs of the end-user in sight.
Additionally, finding a technology partner that provides flexible solutions along with empathetic technologists is key to ensure you get the right solution for your organization.
I am excited to have been part of the team that has released our reimagined CGI Advantage® ERP solution. The transformed user experience of CGI Advantage leverages a mobile-first and human-centered design.
About this author
Howard Dryver has 22 years of experience within the state and local government solutions market. He has held management positions with CGI and American Management Systems. Howard has a diversified leadership background encompassing many aspects of information technology, including product management, product engineering, sales, marketing ...