By Linda McClelland, manager of technical services and product development
I know we’ve got some time, but the team here at Sentric is already whipped into a frenzy talking about October’s HRTech conference. It’s an exciting time, in an exciting place and we’ve got some exciting things to share.
I guess you could say we’re pretty excited.
And while we’d love to spill the beans early and tell you all about what’s in store for us at this year’s show, we’ve taken a vow of silence until the big day. So, like a kid before a birthday, we’ll be patiently awaiting the official “OK” to start tearing the paper off of our new toys.
…But that doesn’t means we can’t shake the boxes a little, right? That’s why I’m here, to discuss a subject near and dear to my heart, something we’ve affectionately named the Development Balancing Act.
Let’s start by talking about balance. Go ahead and think about that word for a second. Seriously, close your eyes and picture something that shows balance.
It can be whatever you want; an old-fashioned scale, a tightrope walker, or even an animal balancing items on its furry head. Here’s a link for some inspiration – http://stuffonscoutshead.com/home/.
Now think about all of the above examples. Do they all correctly represent balance? Sure. Are they all drastically different from the next? You bet. My point is that while we all understand the concept of balance, we don’t necessarily give it the same meaning.
As an HRIS provider, the idea of balance can get even trickier, especially when it comes to product development. What X client wants might not be the same as Y client, and vice versa. But regardless, it’s our job to navigate these murky waters to create something that represents a blend of the two.
Often, we do this by evaluating the information we have to best balance short-term wants with long-term needs.
Here’s a good way of looking at it, let’s say I give you $10,000 right now because I’m feeling generous and because it isn’t real money. But with my gift of $10k comes a caveat that you must do one of two things with it right away – either spend it or invest it.
Do you spend the cash on something you want, maybe that pony you’ve always dreamed of, or do you put that money into an investment portfolio that has a high earnings potential?
Both offer an eventual reward – unless you’re taking financial advice from MC Hammer – but the timeframe on that reward varies greatly.
I know, this is just a fictional example, but it does help us illustrate a bigger challenge we often face in the development process. Do we implement a short-term solution for that quick win or do we tie things back to a larger, more strategic vision so that we can deliver clients more long-term value?
Our answer? Yes.
That’s because there really is no right or wrong answer. In a perfect world it would be cut-and-dry, yes or no, but the reality is, sometimes we need to make a change right away and in certain instances, that value will come further down the road after we’ve taken some time to consider all of the possibilities. In both cases, clients can rest assured that upgrades aren’t just implemented when they’re getting industry buzz, but when you, our clients, actually need them.
Now, let’s put some context to this by checking out two of the biggest issues we face when searching for balance – functionality and user experience.
Functionality is what users almost always ask for and what the industry loves to talk about. Need proof? Take a look at this sample RFP from www.CompareHRIS.com. Like a lot of others, it asks participants to outline a host of specific product functionality details. It even includes a section dedicated to functionality on page 4. I’d argue that makes it pretty important.
User experience? Yeah, it’s mentioned…once…on page 14!
So, what gives? Why is functionality such an important piece of the puzzle, yet user experience takes a back seat? Well, because if it’s a good experience then no one really thinks about it, and if it’s bad then no one is using it anyway.
For the most part, functionality is high pressure and urgent (we’re falling behind or have the chance to beat the competition!), while user experience tends to linger, waiting for another day, with big promises, lots of aspiration and no real pressure (think about how much easier it could be to do x…or how much more value people could get out of the system if only we…).
But what’s interesting, is that this focus appears to be shifting as companies look to HRIS as a way to improve the employee experience, reduce cost and better support their business. Look no further than a February 2014 survey from Information Services Group (http://www.isg-one.com/web/expertise/hr-technology/hr-servicedeliverytrends.pdf?aliId=4279154) titled “Human Resources Technology and Service Delivery Trends in 2014.” What topped this year’s list? You guessed it, user experience and the expected benefits of implementing new HR technologies, as well as new HR delivery models.
So what does this all mean? Well, for starters, it proves that a balanced solution is getting even harder to, well, balance. But it also means that users are starting to value the bigger picture and understand that by pushing for things, like a more intuitive user experience, they can improve the employee experience and affect the bottom line.
At Sentric, we’re always keeping balance top-of-mind but know it isn’t something we can figure out on our own. That’s why we’re constantly engaging with our internal teams, partners, and clients to gather feedback and evaluate what’s next. But it doesn’t stop there, we’re also sorting through research, pulling industry information and staying heavily involved in major conferences. Because much like the definition of balance, what our clients need is always changing and it’s our job to stay a step ahead.
Like what we have to say? Have feedback on functionality vs. user experience? Tell us in the comments section below.