What it means to focus truly on the user

I’ve spoken to a lot of people recently in the unified communications and collaboration (UC&C) sector and the ongoing challenge that is top of the list is about getting people to use these systems properly. It’s all well and good investing in expensive technology, but if it doesn’t fulfil your needs, why do it. And what does focusing on the user really mean?

Many of the most successful companies out there focus on the customer, user or getting the product tailored exactly to people’s needs. Take Google’s number-one principle: “Focus on the user and all else will follow.”

Companies approach UC&C with the idea of implementing significant amounts of technology as a silver bullet for lower costs and productivity growth, but really the tech needs to be implemented to solve a specific need and really driven through the organisation with senior leadership buy-in.

Think about yourself and your day-to-day work. Have you become annoyed with the amount of notifications you receive? WhatsApp, email, collaboration apps, social media; I know I have. The distraction can limit productivity, so when you devise your UC&C strategy it needs to be done very carefully with the user in mind, and fully embraced as a tool and not just another way of communicating.

3 steps to focussing on the user

Research I’ve done recently with a couple of hundred key buyers in UC&C has shown that user adoption, digital culture and people are the number-one challenge for businesses that are implementing these types of systems. It’s funny though, as some of the vendors don’t necessarily market or focus on the importance of this, but are now starting to invest more in it.

So, focusing on the user is important to solve a problem, but the next step is figuring out how to do it. I have spoken to a lot of people about this problem and the top three things that keep coming up are:

Firstly, get user feedback and conduct interviews. This is vital so you understand exactly what your users want and why, and what will really make the difference to their productivity levels.

Secondly, secure senior leadership and middle management buy-in. It’s so important to get this to make sure the project flies. Who else is going to ensure their team members turn up to training sessions?

And thirdly, implement the technology to solve a specific problem or with a specific goal. What is the specific need of your users and what issues are they facing? If the technology can solve a specific goal, this will mean you have mass adoption.

Tech alone isn’t the secret to success

It sounds simple. But there are many companies not thinking in this way and a huge amount of excited IT executives getting swept up in the technology bandwagon that everyone should have collaboration apps. I’m not saying they shouldn’t, but it needs to be supported by user feedback to get long-term buy-in.

So what’s next? I think the UC&C industry needs to keep the user top of mind, what their experience is and also what is potentially annoying for them. We need to discuss this and focus on it, not just on the technology. This is good for all of us as it means better adoption rates and more revenue for tech companies, increased productivity and, more importantly, happier and more loyal employees.