Archive for May, 2010

Act Intelligently To Ensure E-Forms Are Applications

May 26, 2010

 This might be the information age but we are still obsessed with paper. As much as 62% of important documents are still archived as paper, according to content management association AIIM.

 Worse still, we often fail to use electronic forms of delivery when our fascination with the printed word is broken. Rather than simplifying business processes, electronic formatting too often adds a further layer of complication.

 Electronic forms – or e-forms – are a digital version of paper forms that should help eliminate the need to rely on paper. E-forms should also help firms encode data for multiple purposes, so that electronic data can be used in various ways to help improve information processing.

 But rather than implement a simple and disciplined approach to electronic form-filling, too many companies have multiple versions of ‘the truth’ stored in many different formats, from paper to spreadsheets and onto online forms of encoding.

 The simple message to technology leaders facing this morass of information is stop and think about the way your firm processes data. Analyst Gartner has produced a five-stage maturity model to help businesses bridge the paper-to-digital divide.

 The model provides a way for firms to deliver a return on investment as they move from paper-based data gathering to an optimised management process at the final level.

 However, there is some worrying news. Just 20% of large enterprises will have reached the fifth level of Gartner’s maturity model for e-forms by the end of 2010, according to the analyst.

 More attention, then, needs to be paid to e-forms. Even more critically, real concentration must be centred on how information is collected as part of the end-user experience.

 Gartner’s fifth stage of maturity suggests that the e-form should become the single graphical user interface. Such an approach optimises data gathering, database management and customer engagement. To quote Gartner: “It’s a form, but it’s also a rich application”.

 Using rich internet applications (RIAs) – fully-featured software that runs in a browser – should allow your business to gather relevant data and complete transactions quicker. The whole user experience will be centred in one place, without the need for individuals to complete extraneous e-forms.

 Such speed and convenience will mean your business can move towards an optimised management process. But becoming one of the firms that has a mature approach to e-forms will mean you need to act intelligently.


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Enough of a Digital Britain, its time for a Digital Government!

May 13, 2010

In light of last week’s polling fiasco – with hundreds of furious voters turned away from polling stations, the new Con/Dem Government has got quite a task on its hands to get to the bottom of what happened and how they can avoid it in future.

In the past, the Government has been more than happy to sit back and promote the idea of a “Digital Britain” but what about a “Digital Government”?

Surely with last week’s lost votes in mind, taking technology into its own hands with e-voting is the inevitable next step? With more and more people going online for goods and services, a sizeable proportion of the population would certainly embrace this method and having piloted the world’s first multi-channel online voting system over ten years ago, I can certainly vouch for the fact that technology should not be a barrier to adoption…so what is holding us back?

We can only assume that the reason is cultural – that people enjoy the ritual of physically attending the polling station. There might also be concerns about how robust such a system would be and the potential fall-out if there was any kind of outage on Election Day. However, the technology exists nowadays to build highly scalable and redundant web infrastructure to ensure these kind of high-profile, public-facing sites meet requirements. And from a security perspective an online voting platform is a huge, high-profile target for attack, but provided the right security measures are used, people should not be concerned about the election becoming compromised.

Any form of e-voting must be inclusive – and this means creating a true multi-channel platform. What better way for the new government to embody the openness that it has talked about so much over the last few days than to take this momentous step using open frameworks and tools. What we don’t want is a half-baked system where system compatibility becomes as big a hindrance to voting as the old voting stations running out of ballot papers.

In an era where so many of our activities take place online, and with a country of voters in need of encouragement, the scene is perfectly set for the implementation of e-voting. Not only will it allow the new government to showcase its progressiveness, but it should make life much easier for the Government and the voting public further down the line. Its definitely time for the government to start practising what it preaches when it comes to creating a Digital Britain!


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Birth of the UX Designer

May 13, 2010

Your biggest fear – given the ongoing evolution of technology – should be that your firm’s cutting-edge web developments are already being blunted by the fast pace of change on the internet.

Such change is all about meeting the customers’ needs through user-focused development. Analyst Gartner recently reported that Ajax technologies and rich internet application (RIA) platforms – tools and systems that help promote a responsive user experience – are moving from the early adopter phase of market evolution to enterprise-level adoption.

Sounds good but there’s a significant catch. Organisations looking to spend on the web are often keen to initiate a form of development that is less flat, and increasingly sexy and intuitive. But such organisations often lack the design skills to make such a leap.

There are multiple reasons for this new, interactive skills gap. First, businesses that think  customer experience is all about the “look and feel” are woefully unaware of the truth. Another key aspect is usability – and quite often, this is a skill that eludes some designers, as the ability for programmers to design a nice look and feel remains elusive.

Knowing the boundaries of what is technically possible in the creation of an interactive design is also crucial. Your designers need to be able to create the experience you require – and quite often designers are not “developers”, so they don’t often appreciate “the art of the possible”.

To create a more intuitive web experience for customers, you need great design, usability and programming skills…welcome to the birth of  user experience (UX) designers.

These specialist professionals are immersed in how your product is perceived, learned and used. Rather than simply tweaking an already-failing site, UX designers will bring together business experience and customer demands to create a more inituitive online product.

Welcome to the future, where your customer interface isn’t simply coded but created – and more importantly – is a pleasure to use.


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User Experience Analytics (UEA)

May 4, 2010

For companies that treat their web sites as another piece of marketing collateral, creating a good looking site is their end-game. For anyone that treats the web as an efficient and effective sales channel, managing their online presence is a continual cycle in customer experience management.

The cycle of create/monitor/refine relies on a three-pronged approach of creating a site, monitoring its use and refining the experience to meet new demands.

To measure a sites effectiveness, one method is to use specialist analytics software, either open source, hosted (for example, Google Analytics) or proprietary (such as Webtrends).

Such tools capture information about web site behaviour, such as who has visited, when they clicked and how long they spent at each destination. The information can be extremely helpful for organisations hoping to develop targeted marketing, interactive advertising and search optimisation.

But creating honed behavioural analytics can be a complicated task. Each page needs to be “hooked in”, so that pages are tagged and individual hits and user behaviour recorded.

If behavioural analytics tell you “what the user did” on your site, quite often it is the transactional data (data they have entered into online forms) that tells you “why the user behaved” in a certain way.

However transactional data is normally held separately in an organisation MI Database and is only captured if the user completes a process – for example, receiving a home insurance quote. However, to find out why users don’t get to the end of a process firms have to undertake separate programming to capture the transactional data. Such programming helps to ensure that transactional information is recorded in databases and the intelligence passed to an analytics engine. But once again, such a process is complex and time-intensive.

So, here’s an idea – wouldn’t it be great if you could easily combine behavioural and transactional data? Such an approach would really create 1+1=3, as web designers and business experts can analyse and tweak customer experiences based on intelligence gathered from actual usage.

Evidence comes from our work at edge IPK. We worked alongside a large financial organisation, analysing behavioural data to identify the most common page that users left without completing an insurance quotation form. From the behavioural information, we knew that most users not completing a car insurance quote left on the page where they would enter their car details. The additional transactional data told us that users would select a car maker, but would leave before selecting a car model.

We quickly concluded that users were leaving at this point because they could not find the model of car they wanted to insure. The result was an increase in quotes and, more importantly, an increase in sales.

Happy customers and new business. Isn’t it time you tweaked your user experience analytics to ensure all potential metrics are covered?


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