Don’t let ITIL get in your eyes

Driving to work today, the sun was low in the sky and it made it hard to see clearly.  Pulling down the sun visor helped but if you’re like me – vertically challenged – it can have a limited effect.  So it was a difficult journey because the sunshine, though welcome, obscured the view.

I think ITIL can be like that sometimes.

Some people worship at the altar of ITIL as though it is there to be obeyed at all costs. You must do it like this; you must have this process in place; you must implement this tool.

In our desire to adopt ITIL, we forget that ITIL was never set up to be a religion. ITIL is guidance, not God.

As a consultant, it can be easier to step back and see the bigger picture, because we are not caught up in the weeds of day-to-day service operations. The flipside is that we can be a bit evangelical and over-zealous.  And that’s where the balance needs to be struck.

In reality, a full-blown incident management solution is great, but if a spreadsheet and a one-page procedure will do, then we need to suggest that. Not deliver two-hundred pages of shelf-ware and a sexy top of the range piece of kit that takes months to implement.

A good consultant will know the Albert Einstein quote and suggest a solution that “should be as simple as possible, but not simpler”; one that will get you started on the right path and will lead you to the promised land of an ITIL-aligned solution that best serves your business’s needs.

Rather than being blinded by the ITIL sunshine, if your sun visor does not provide adequate shade, a cushion on your seat can be a better solution than hiring a chauffeur or buying a new car.

The UX “snowball effect”

How transforming the user experience can deliver rapid, ever-increasing business benefits

A key strength of applying a user centric Agile approach to digital transformation is that it can deliver incremental improvements to the customer and employee experience without having to reconfigure an organisation’s entire operating model “all at once”.  Furthermore this approach can enable further benefits to be potentially realised across the whole business.

These improvements alone may not always generate great bottom line benefits for different organisational stakeholders, but cumulatively they can have a massive (“snowballing”) sustainable impact.  Also this approach may be the only way smaller organisations can realise the benefits of digital ways of working and technology at an acceptable level of risk.

Here’s an example of how this UX snowball effect could potentially deliver the tangible business benefits of digital transformation in less than one year for a medium sized high street and on-line retailer (note all change activities described in this scenario are tactical, not strategic):

  1. An on-line channel requires users to complete a free text form; the process is cumbersome for customers leading to a significant number of complaints and drop-out to off-line sales channels. Based on customer and service centre feedback, the onsite UX team designed and implemented a new on-line form that uses drop down menus. This made the process of completing the form for all users easier and more responsive – and resulted in more on-line purchases and a reduction in complaints
    Cumulative indicative benefits:  improved customer satisfaction score 
  2. Because the UX team used Agile to deliver this user experience enhancement quickly in collaboration with the customer service centre management team, these stakeholders were able to rationalise back office capabilities in parallel that generated cost efficiencies
    Cumulative indicative benefits: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve 
  3. The significantly reduced admin burden meant sales staff could focus on higher value engagement activities such as engaging new customers
    Cumulative indicative benefits: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition 
  4. The user-friendly on-line form also enabled cleaner, more accurate data to be collected about customers’ browsing and purchasing behaviour; using money saved from back office efficiencies, managers invested in analytics/reporting tools to create a better understanding of customer needs based on this deeper information. This insight meant the company could pro-actively respond to the changing demands of individual customers
    Cumulative indicative benefits:  improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition + data driven personalisation 
  5. Using insights gathered from the data analysis, marketing were able to use this evidence to build a business case for new innovative services that addressed genuine gaps in the market
    Total UX “snowball benefits” realised in one year: improved customer satisfaction score + reduced costs to serve + increased new customer acquisition + data driven personalisation + lower risk diversification

…And all resulting from innovating the user experience for completing an on-line form!

If you would like more information about the issues discussed in this post, or how digital transformation can benefit your business, please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria digital practice

An introduction to User Experience

Would you like to experience what it is to be a UX designer?

The UX team have been hosting workshops in order to raise the profile and understanding of User Experience throughout Sopra Steria. The workshop format places those attending at the heart of all activities, allowing them to experience what it is to be a UX designer.

Following the success of a UX workshop held at our Edinburgh office, we have developed the hands-on workshop for a wider audience putting them at the heart of all UX activities. From the theoretical to the practical, the session has been built to give teams an understanding of how we fit UX into a business context and how this blends within an IT environment. Our aim is for participants to leave with an understanding of User Experience and some handy tips and tricks to apply to future projects and bids.

This newly developed workshop was brought to York for change managers at our joint venture company SSCL, and organised by the Head of Change, who got in touch after hearing about the previous Edinburgh hosting. We began by giving the team some background context as to how the UX team is constructed, what roles different members play and examples of projects we have worked on across all sectors of the business.

From here, our approach to the workshop was… less talking, more doing! The team was set multiple collaborative tasks that involved redesigning a current relatable experience. They learnt how to create user journeys, formulate elevator pitches, rapid prototype and user test. These tasks were all done with the aim to equip the team with some UX knowledge, provide a hands-on experience and demonstrate an understanding of key design decisions around UX.

Our ultimate aim was to provide the team with a sense of accomplishment in UX, which I think we achieved on receiving feedback:

“I enjoyed the ‘hands-on’ approach to learning about UX and what it involves”

“As someone who often struggles to understand abstract concepts, the opportunity to see what it all meant in practice helped me to get my head around it”

“It was a good session and really simplified the meaning of UX”

If this is something you feel would benefit you or your team, then feel free to get in touch – leave a reply below, or contact me Lynsey.brownlow@soprasteria.com.

Make your enterprise social media initiative a success

Enterprise social media initiatives (ESI) such as the introduction of Yammer or Lync communication and collaboration tools can make a big difference to the digital transformation of an organisation.

Here are my top tips for maxmising the tangible and intangible benefits of an ESI for your business, employees and customers:

1. Focus on improving processes
Use enterprise social media tools to accelerate or optimise existing business processes – it’s not just an intranet replacement; it should drive competitive advantage.

2. Connect with the real world
Talk to your employees daily about insights and challenges they raise on your enterprise social media channels to reduce organisational risks and improve performance.

3. Be Visual. Be Relevant. Be Exciting!
Just like any other social media channel, ESI content should be engaging and informative to ensure employees get benefit quickly.

4. Use your enterprise social initiative to improve customer engagements
Employee generated content should directly inform product/service development – ESI empowers your people to innovate and own the customer experience.

Potential benefits of a successful enterprise social initiative:

  • Less time spent on low value activities
  • Lower risk of silo working
  • Better employee engagement
  • Bottom up innovation

If you would like to find out more about how an enterprise social media initiative can benefit your business please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria Digital Practice.

Why the utility industry has lots of synergy with the insurance sector

If we had a choice none of us would “choose” to spend our hard earned money on utility bills – gas, electricity and water. Whilst all essential services, they just don’t have any aspirational value to us living in the developed world. A huge amount of infrastructure and capital investment has been made over the past decade assuring our utility services in the UK, so we tend (rightly or wrongly) to expect these services to “just work” and be there when we need them. This makes it difficult for utility companies to create a relationship with us – their customers – as most don’t want, or see, any value in having any contact or a relationship with our utility companies.

Typically, there are four journeys we will take with a utility company:

  1. To register or amend our details, or leave the provider. Currently for water companies this can be a relatively rare event given the current lack of competition and choice in the industry and we see our water bill more like an additional tax
  2. To query our bill. For gas and electricity companies, this is the most likely reason we will contact a utility company today, as the majority of the industry still runs on estimated bills. The planned roll out of Smart meters, however, will dramatically change bill queries, which in turn will drive down customer interactions
  3. To complain – the most frequent reason for us to contact utility companies! According to the Institute of Customer Services the utilities industry remains rooted to the bottom of the UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI)
  4. To report a fault, for example, when a loss of service occurs. This is the time when we expect and demand a high level of engagement, given the inconvenience the service loss will cause

These “customer” journeys tend to be very similar with the insurance sector. A small amount of contact occurs at the time when we register for an insurance policy, amend our details or exit. We might query the price at the time of renewal, although more and more, we do this through price comparison web services. The insurance industry ranks higher for customer service than the utility companies in the UKCSI so customer complaints tend to be fewer in number, but do still occur. And, when we have a problem – typically an event has occurred where we need to make a claim – we expect that claim to be processed with ruthless efficiency and by staff who show huge empathy to our circumstances.

This final customer journey, processing a claim, is one where the insurance companies have invested in heavily to differentiate themselves. Expensive advertising by insurance companies will often focus on how they manage claims, recognising the distress we may have at such times. Therefore, utility companies should invest in their people, processes and systems as well to provide much needed support during a loss of service – a very stressful time, particularly for vulnerable people.

Finally, insurance premiums, like utility bills, are ones we would all prefer “not” to pay but we know we “need” to ensure we have insurance policies to cover our loved ones, property, vehicles and possessions.

Utility companies should aspire to benchmark themselves against the leading insurance companies. Aspiring to align themselves with the best in class customer service organisations, such as John Lewis or Amazon is a flawed strategy – the companies at the top of the UKCSI all offer a product or service that we “want” rather than we “need”. Perhaps this is why British Gas has picked an insurance industry veteran, Mark Hodges from Aviva, to be their new Managing Director?

UX Designers HQ: UX Hackathon

Have you ever woken up in the morning and wondered “Did that actually happen or was I dreaming?” That was my exact thought as I groggily arose from my warm bed recently, unsure of whether or not I had attended a game-changing event in the world of UX. It wasn’t until I scrolled through the abundance of notifications on my iPhone with the tag #CFUXHACKATHON attached that I realised not only had the event actually happened, right here in central London, but also that I was not alone in my feeling of fulfilment.

Many members of the digital community have often walked away from an event that has a UX focus to it, still with so many questions left unanswered. UX is such a complex discipline, it is hard to keep up or even retain the information being spoken on stage by the UX thought leader of the moment. The digital community in the UK has long awaited an event where they can leave and go to bed knowing more, understanding more and being more than they were when they woke up that morning. As the hope was slowly beginning to drift away, along came the meetup group UX Designers HQ: London. The organisers (Career Foundry) promised an intense, knowledge filled six hours of UX-iness, in the form of a UX Hackathon, which is believed to be the first held in London of its kind and scale. Was this the event that the community had been looking for? We all waited in anticipation for the date of the six hour UX Hackathon to be announced; Wednesday 25th February 2015 at 6pm.

6pm mid week? Haven’t we all go work in the morning?

Despite the fact that it was on a work night 100+ members from the digital community arrived, representing some of the biggest technology companies globally and of all abilities, knowledge and experience in UX.

The Career Foundry team had asked me and six other UX professionals to mentor the twelve teams during the hackathon based on our experience practicing UX in specialist areas related to the briefs that the teams would be working from. The seven of us also formed the expert judging panel, where we provided critique and scored the final presentations from our UX Hackers.

Mentors/Judges:

  • Jay Tulloch – UX Designer at Sopra Steria
  • Yael Levey – Senior UX Designer at the BBC
  • Sandra Sears – UX Designer for TalkTalk
  • Andy Iosifescu – Freelance Interaction Designer
  • Neil Sampson – Professional UX Designer
  • Paola Miani – Senior User Experience Consultant at IG
  • James Walters – UX Lead at Open Inclusion

The night flowed extremely smoothly with the teams getting acquainted and well and truly stuck into the tasks at hand.

The Hackathon consisted of five stages:

  1. User research and prep
  2. User testing 1: User Interviews
  3. Divide, coordinate & conquer: value proposition, user flows and information architecture
  4. User testing 2: paper prototyping
  5. Iteration & pitch

As a mentor, it was my job to add value to teams and help direct them through their design brief, providing them with the in-depth UX knowledge and methodology required for them to really understand the needs and goals of their ideal target users. I soon found myself being called to different tables to provide my insight and expertise. This was great! It meant that the information that I was sharing not only made sense but was indeed valued. By the end of the night, all of the twelve teams had confidently presented their final designs to us judges and there was uproar of applause from the audience for everyone involved.

The feedback from the attendees both directly and on-line has been incredible: thanking Sopra Steria for sharing our expert knowledge and experience in the UX field with them, which they found invaluable during the tasks. Participants and Mentors alike displayed a keen interest in the great work that we are all doing in digital transformation at Sopra Steria. The organisers have been praised in huge amounts for the event, and they are planning a full three day UX Hackathon in nine months time for over 300 participants! This is another event which could provide Sopra Steria with the opportunity to further increase our influence as thought leaders, as we continue to make our own transition from the New European Leader to the New Global Leader in Digital Transformation.

Read on, for a timetable of events

STAGE ONE: USER RESEARCH

Competitor Analysis

Teams researched three competitors who shared the same goals as the teams business concept. It was important for the teams to understand their competitors in order to begin to form a picture of their target users. I asked the teams to think about:

  • Who are their competitors communicating to?
  • How are their competitors communicating?
  • Why are their competitors communicating in this way?
  • What is their competitors message?
  • Is there a story behind their business?
  • Do their competitors values match theirs?
User Personas

After identifying three of their closest competitors, the teams were asked to create a single persona which described their ideal target user of their product or service. It was important for the teams not to be distracted by the look, age and name of their persona. They needed to look deeper into who the person actually was and think to about:

  • What are their interests?
  • Who do they socialise with?
  • Where do they socialise?
  • What are the motivations for using their product/service?
  • Goals, what does their persona want to be or do?
  • Is this why they are using the product/service?
Card Sorting

Card sorting was a fun exercise that really brought the team together. They rolled up their sleeves and got stuck into this task and were asked to maintain focus on their vision for the product. Once they grouped their ideas into categories they carefully prioritised features, ideas and pages that were must haves for the MVP of their product/service.

STAGE TWO: USER INTERVIEWS

The teams went out into the big wide world (the table next door) to find representatives of their target audience, and ask them questions based on the teams assumptions of how their users would interact with the product or service. The task was very insightful and the teams soon realised that the answers that they received were not those that were first expected.

STAGE THREE: BRANDING, USER FLOWS AND IA

A huge task which required the teams to be very organised. Based on the data obtained from the user interview stage the teams went about creating the optimum user journey through their proposed product. From this, they could then begin to develop the information architecture and place in the features and ideas that they had prioritised for the MVP. When constructing the IA, I discussed with the teams the importance of how information is delivered to the user through content (labelling, hierarchy, tagging, grouping), which allowed them to question some of their own decisions and assumptions, and provided a starting point for the next round of user testing.

STAGE FOUR: USER TESTING w/PAPER PROTOTYPES

Another fun task, however, one of the most valuable. The teams tested the paper prototypes of their proposed user journeys and interactions with users from other teams. None of the teams got the design right first time, and that was ok because they gained invaluable insight into how their users actually will use their products and what their expectations really are.

STAGE FIVE: ITERATION AND PITCH

They now had the opportunity to refine their design before the final presentation, it was critical to the success of their product that they utilised the helpful feedback obtained from the user testing stage. The data received from the testing would help them to direct their iterations towards the needs of their ideal target users.

Once they were satisfied that their final design was a perfect fit for the needs of their user the teams began to organise how they would pitch their vision to the audience and more importantly the judges.

All twelve teams pitched extremely well and delivered the goals from the brief. Some of the pitches were long, some were short, some were fun…and some were not so much. At the end of the night, there was not a single person without a smile, and there was a brief moment where everyone could see the satisfaction in the faces of their team mates. The whole room congratulated one another and it was clear to see that the night was one we’d all never forget.

FEEDBACK

Apologies in advance for the “cringe factor” of the following images. Although I feel strongly that this feedback is important for us to know and it does not only reflect the work that I did on the night, it is also reflective of the awesomeness of us as a UX and Innovation team at Sopra Steria and the work that we have all done over the last two years building our Digital Practice from the ground up to get us into spaces such as this one.

Why 2015 is the right time to invest in digital transformation

Through all the hype, buzz and noise around “digital” there are some compelling reasons why organisations should be investing proactively in this area in 2015 to strategically grow their business.

Preparation for an uncertain, disruptive future
Mass market access to digital technology combined with new entrants aggressively disrupting traditional service delivery models means implementation of strategy is increasingly becoming tactical and variable. Digital transformation helps an organisation achieve competitive advantage by integrating business and IT strategy processes together to deliver a shared definition of what “good looks like” for different organisational stakeholders (including customers) in this dynamic environment. Previous approaches where such bottom line objectives were probably separate and often divergent are now unsustainable.

It “forces” an organisation to address difficult pain points in its existing operating model
Successful digital transformation should deliver an optimised operating model that enables a consistent, personalised user experience across different on-line and off-line channels.  For many organisations it is likely there are underlying complex business and technical issues that need to be addressed for this transformation to succeed (poor data quality, ageing IT infrastructure and inflexible, unaligned working practices being typical examples). Dealing proactively with these strategic problems now mitigates future risks of an organisation narrowly focusing on user experience improvements to drive profitability because its structural issues have become too costly, too difficult to resolve.

It’s a buyers’ market right now for innovative digital transformation service
Many consultancies, system integrators, outsourcers, design agencies and start-ups are today passionately trying to sell their own digital transformation services. This is a great opportunity for organisations to lever these market conditions (i.e. “shop around”) to find the right solutions that deliver maximum tangible benefits specifically tailored for them.

If you would like more information about the issues discussed in this post, or how digital transformation can benefit your business, please leave a reply below, or contact the Sopra Steria digital practice