For close to two decades now, businesses have discovered opportunities to use Internet-based interactive applications to improve or expand their “brick and mortar” businesses. Now, whether its retail, wholesale, manufacturing or services, the vast majority of businesses in North America, Europe and Asia have found a way to use web and mobile to change their economics and operations.
All of this is pretty obvious, even to the casual observer, but there is a problem.
Despite years of transitioning to digital forms of business, most companies have failed to transition the way that those responsible for business success work with those responsible for technology success. Conversations remain “industrial”, in the sense that the business specs out a capability they want to see, and development builds to that spec. Most of the time, development rarely interacts with the business enough to test assumptions and verify that the spec is an accurate description of the outcome the business is asking for.
There is no ongoing conversation between the business and development. Rather, it’s a “vendor-supplier” relationship that works great — well, adequately — for “build to spec”, but is absolutely horrible for any continuously evolving service. Services like a customer-facing retail, ecommerce, or media service. There is no common language other than that of features and “user stories” that fall short of providing a way to measure successful user outcomes.
The business-technology conversation gap
There is a real “conversation gap” between business and technology stakeholders that is negatively affecting the ability of digital businesses to respond to market opportunity.
The current conversation just flat out fails to deliver quality on a continuous basis. There are long gaps in which business needs must wait, or risk breaking the develop-test-operate workflow. There are frequent delays as IT tries to figure out what to work on next, even as the business has no idea where investment is most likely to drive results. And, as a result of that, there are often false starts on features that fail to deliver on anyone’s desired outcomes.
Why does this gap exist?
I contend that it is largely because both the business and development have failed to incorporate a key stakeholder in the ongoing digital conversation: the user.
If there is one thing I want you to get from this post, it is this:
All other outcomes, both business and technological, are driven by user outcomes. Understanding user outcomes — both actual and desired — is the one way digital organizations can assure that they continuously evolve to improve their own desired outcomes.
What drives successful technology outcomes? Successful user outcomes. What drives successful business outcomes? You guessed it.
Bridging the gap with user outcomes
Does this mean constantly polling users directly through surveys, sales calls and the like? Absolutely not — though doing that occasionally is probably smart. User outcomes can be measured today via standard technologies like real user management, and web and mobile analytics. The trick is to convert these measurements into KPIs that represent desired outcomes.
This is why you are seeing a mad drive by analytics companies of all sorts — business intelligence, application performance monitoring, real user monitoring, etc. — to measure and interpret user outcomes in digital systems. Over the next five years, I truly believe we’ll see a major shift in how systems of engagement are defined, built, and operated. That revolution will be data driven, and it will focus increasingly on user outcomes.
We at SOASTA have unique insight, expertise and technology to address this change in your organization. We have the power of mPulse to measure, CloudTest and TouchTest to verify and our professional services organization to advise and assist. We have integrations with many of the systems and marketing analytics tools you already use. We can deliver more streamlined ways to drive the right user outcomes that benefit all stakeholders.
And we are committed to both increasing visibility into user outcomes and providing expanded integration into both the business and service operations systems that are co-evolving to meet this need. My job at SOASTA is to work with our other leaders and our customers to make sure we remain your most trusted advisor when it comes to measuring and taking action on user outcomes.
Let us know how we can help you can understand your user outcomes.
About the Author
James Urquhart is Senior Vice President, Performance Analytics at SOASTA, Inc. Named one of the ten most influential people in cloud computing by both the MIT Technology Review and the Huffington Post, and a former contributing author to GigaOm and CNET, James brings a deep understanding of disruptive technologies and the business opportunities they afford. James is a seasoned technologist with more than 20 years of experience in distributed systems development and deployment, focusing on service-oriented architectures, cloud computing, and automation. Prior to joining SOASTA, he held leadership roles at Dell, Enstratius, Cisco, Cassatt, Sun and Forte Software. @jamesurquhart