The user-centric Azure user
With great power comes great responsibility. Although the famous line from Spiderman may not incite visions of cloud computing potential, there is a connection.
Public cloud, including the quickly growing Microsoft Azure, unlocks productive capability for organizations on an enormous scale. Azure opens the door to greater productivity, improved customer experience, and ultimately competitive advantage. With Azure, users are increasingly empowered to create their own solutions using tools like Microsoft Power Automate (previously Microsoft Flow), Power BI and Power Apps.
Providing a platform that makes creating solutions easy also makes it easy to build… bad solutions! Making it super easy to build productivity tools doesn't mean your users will be productive, particularly if they are confused by or hate what you built.
When solutions were harder to build and required specialized development skills and formal projects, we were more likely to utilize people with expertise on how to build them. In some cases, people with user interface design or user experience expertise were involved to produce solutions our users loved. We could meticulously eliminate every bit of waste in the forms, label everything for maximum intuitiveness and flow, and ensure the data used and generated was managed and reliable for years to come. This approach really became mainstream with the birth of the iPhone in 2007, and the iPad shortly after. You may have heard stories of a 5-year old child in a third-world country who lives without electricity and picked up an iPad for the first time and immediately started to use it. That intuitive design doesn't happen by accident. Today, users expect solutions to be built with intuitiveness and usability in mind, just like the apps on their phones.
We all know what a bad solution is like, at least if you’re a casual user. If a casual user needs to print off an instruction sheet or go on training to learn how to use the solution, then it’s a bad solution. Manuals and training may be tolerable for regular power users, but not for casual users.
With tools in the Microsoft Power Platform like Power Automate, Power BI and Power Apps, users can now create their own solutions and immediately generate business value. These tools continue to get more advanced, with things like built-in AI capabilities and robotic process automation. The opportunity now is to combine that power with the power of excellent user experience design to accelerate adoption and, ultimately, business value.
Fortunately, users creating solutions for their fellow users may have an advantage: they already know the context and their own lingo. Chances are, they will label things in a way that makes sense to their peers and build the solution to match their process. There is no guarantee of this, though. Automating a bad process through a user-created solution is a missed opportunity for improvement. And, some users may still create solutions that make perfect sense to them and no one else. You may have experienced that before. Have you ever had to use a clumsy Microsoft Access or SharePoint solution?
With the potential to accelerate the number of solutions that can be user-created, it becomes increasingly important to establish at least an understanding of good interaction design. A great starting point is the 10 usability heuristics developed by Jakob Nielsen (https://www.nngroup.com/articles/ten-usability-heuristics/). Nielsen developed this list in 1994, and it remains increasingly relevant and harder to ignore.
Imagine an organization who enables their users to create their own solutions to solve business problems and improve productivity. With oversight and guidance, users who create solutions can become proficient with these usability heuristics, and those solutions would have the potential to maximize the investment the organization made in Azure to begin with. Isn’t that what digital acceleration is all about?
So much to learn
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