CIO: What nobody told you about users

We rolled out a fantastic new corporate calendar application for all staff to use. It met all the requirements, and, finally, all employees could book meetings with colleagues with confidence.

Then the complaints came rolling in. It was difficult to use. It wasn’t reliable. It didn’t work well on smartphones. Our users were very angry. Our desktop support team members were frustrated. The predicable refrain from the IT team (myself included) was that the system worked just fine, these were all just user problems.

“The users just don’t understand. They don’t get it. Someone should train them.”

Wrong, wrong, wrong!

Here’s the truth:

1. You don’t have “users.” I believe that the term “user” is derogatory. It has come to imply a one-dimensional automaton interacting only with your application. It implies that the relationship you have with them is transactional. They “use” your application and that is the beginning and end of your responsibility toward them. This is short-sighted.

2. You DO have “clients.” The term “client” implies that you have a long-term relationship with the person using your application. And, they will continue to work with you as you replace that application with the next one. It’s not about the calendar system or the CRM or the document repository system. It is about the application in the context of all the services you deliver to them. It is about the relationship you have with them.

It is all-too-common that clients are underestimated. Please remember that the client that has difficulty using your new application has mastered their iPad and iPhone. Without a manual. Without a training session. Without a lunch-and-learn. They learned it because they were engaged and they wanted to use the technology.

When it comes to your application, if your clients “don’t get it”, they are not to blame, you are.

Our “fantastic” calendar application was so difficult to use and configure that we ended up scrapping it. After thinking about our users as clients and conducting more consultation and work, we launched a better one. One that we didn’t need to provide specialized training or complex configuration for.

So, please take this pledge with me… when you think about mere “users” remind yourself that they are “clients.” I guarantee that this small mind-shift will improve their experience and your piece of mind.

P.S. Thank you for reading my post. If you have have any thoughts about “users” vs. “clients”, I’d be grateful if you included them in the comment section below.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Stephen Abraham
Stephen Abraham
Stephen Abraham is the CIO and IT Director for the Medical Council of Canada, the organization that issues Licenciates for Physicians practicing medicine in Canada. Mr. Abraham has been a CIO for a decade. He has made many mistakes during his 30 years in IT, and has learned a few things along the way.

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