Sunday, September 20, 2015

Guiding Principles

I have worked with a wide range of technologies, in many types of business, ranging from the Fortune 50 companies to mom and pop shops. In all the years that I have worked between users and their technology, I have been guided by a few fundamental ideas.
  • Listen first. If you cannot hear the users, your solution will not address their needs. Listening actively, and guiding the conversation away from technical details, to a clear statement of what the user needs, is the only road to a sensible solution.
  • Set expectations appropriately. If you cannot explain to the users, in non-technical language, what they should expect from the solution you will provide, they cannot know what to expect. Before embarking on a quest to solve their problem make sure the problem is clearly stated and the proposed solution clearly understood.
  • No matter how fancy or excellent or expensive a solution is, if the users do not or cannot use it then it is a failure. The most important key performance indicator, at the end of the job, is “Is the user happy and comfortable making use of the solution you provided”.
  • Just as drivers do not need to understand internal combustion engines to drive their cars, users should not have to be concerned with how computers work to use them. At some point, users will ask you “How does it work?”. You need to be prepared with an explanation using language and metaphors that they understand. If they do not feel secure with your explanation they will feel uncomfortable. There is no need to prove your “smarts” with fancy words and mind-boggling details. Your job is to make them trust you to solve their problem.
  • For each task, there is an appropriate tool and sometimes the best tool is a computer. There are problems that are best solved by simple tools, e.g. a paper clip, post-it notes, a corkboard over the coffee machine. Not all problems require computers to solve. Sometimes the truth is that the user is best served by an old-fashioned inbox on the desk rather than a multi-user, server-based, database with a fancy front end that requires babysitting. Do not be scared to tell the user the truth. Value their time and resources. Show them that your goal is to solve their problem, not to make them waste valuable time and money. Be honest and they will return and trust your judgment.
Working from these fundamental ideas makes me the professional you want to work with you. You can browse my résumé, be bored to tears, and see that my expertise is based on knowledge and experience. I have a proven track record of successful outcomes because I understand that, in the end, the job is always about the user.