Process as UX design

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There’s been a flurry of productivity and operational management tools emerging in the last 2 years, many venture backed and popular within startups, most pretty expensive. And I’d argue, ALL pretty painful to integrate and use. 

The irony of ironies is that these productivity tools seem to have a tendency to add more layers of process and organisational management to them, in a twisted paradox, they create more of the same problems they try to solve. In the last decade having exited 3 companies and having worked with and at at least 15 I can confidently say that I’ve yet to see an organisation that uses these tools effectively in such a way that it actually helps reduce management frictions.

I could be lazy at this point and blame the tools, I could say their systems aren’t user tested enough, I could argue their design isn’t intuitive enough, I could argue that their onboarding and training isn’t effective. 

But I think, the fault lies with the end user, putting an amazing system onto janky broken dirty raw data isn’t going to solve the underlying problem that the data quality is the issue. And its the same with organisational management – you’re either well run or your run poorly, a tool can only compensate so much for organisational dysfunction. 

And if you’re already in an orgainzationally dysfunctional environment, then adding more and more tools isn’t going to reduce the dysfunction, its going to make it worse. 

The most ridiculous of these examples happened recently when a COO came over to me, concluding they needed to hire outside help to optimise a tool which was mean to optimise the organisations processes… the irony that you’re paying to fix the very thing that you were paying to fix the original problem was lost. 

So what causes this issue? I suspect its simply down to poor UX. hear me out.

People are lazy, and will always follow the path of least resistance, even when forced, anything that is ‘unintuitive’ is going to eventually break, and if you’re organisation has enough of these ‘unintuitive’ processes, then you’re going to get very frustrated very quickly. 

‘unintuitive is a function of user experience, which is a literal study of what makes for a good experience for any actor in a process. 

To develop good UX you first need to have a good understanding of the processes and factors that influence that process, and you try to design in such a way that the vast majority of cases can be catered for, minimising fringe cases, you try to minimise the steps and use underlying technology to help offset having additional steps.  

Searching for something on google is a process, one that we can summarise in 3 steps – go to google, type what you’re looking for and press search, view an ordered filtered list and direct to the listing you feel is most relevant to your query

The steps are minimal, obvious, and natural, and as you can see they aren’t trying to optimise for fringe cases, by simply cater for the majority of cases.

And this how we should think about processes, the fewer ‘unintuitive’ human steps we involve, the better the UX, the better the quality of result and the more likely people will do it. 

So as you think about how to optimise your process, before you think about tools, first try to understand the process and see if there are ways to streamline that, and strip out unintuitive steps.

as a rule of thumb, you can consider that if the process can’t deliver the required output within 3-5 intuitive steps, you need to improve the process.

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