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When to invest in internal user experience

by Ross Kinder, CTO of Groove.id

Rethinking Identity and Access Management

Companies are beginning to rethink how they provide IT services to their staff, an effort often buzzworded as digital transformation.

This most often takes the form of initiatives around bring-your-own-device and using cloud and SaaS services. Gone are the days when users will accept 30s page loads on some ancient Java app that only runs on IE 6. (Good riddance!)

Increasingly, technology leaders are measured on internal customer satisfaction. And they are responding by placing a focus on internal user experience.

But these efforts aren't free, so how should we decide when to invest?

I'll propose a few factors to think about.

A boring argument in favor of software-as-a-service

Switching to an internally hosted application to a SaaS application may be a drain on resources in the short term, but decreases IT workload in the long term.

A mentor of mine could barely get through a meeting without uttering what became his catch phrase:

Out-source commodity, in-source differentiation

Nobody is going to beat the competition by being better at expense reports. It shouldn't be taking up time in your mind, space in your data center. The economies of scale mean that Expensify and their ilk are going to be much better at running the application than you are.

Great user experiences retain employees

The average cost to hire a white-collar worker is around $7,000, which certain specialties, such as IT, can cost more than $150,000 to replace. These same employees have an average tenure of just over two years. This means that recruiting technical workers costs an astonishing 6,250 USD per month on average.

So if spending ten bucks per month on an app that provides a great user experience improves retention even a little bit, it’s probably worth it.

Calculate distributed costs

I previously worked at a giant company that had big centralized departments for managing benefits, compliance, finance, and so on. Every year, each of the 100,000 employees would have to spend an hour or so watching a training videos on international anti-corruption, complete with cheesy synth music and earnest voice over. I'm sure these videos were important to someone, but they sure weren't important to me.

Daydreaming, I'd consider how many millions of dollars in productivity were being spent watching these videos across the company. And wondering if it was more than the potential liability.

This is a long way of saying that costs that are spread out finely across a company are harder to measure and so they aren't measured. But that doesn't mean that they don't count.

How much are you spending while your staff waits for their computers to boot? How much are you spending while they wait for a response to the help desk? What business would be been done while that was happening?

Managing great UX isn't free

For every SaaS application you use, there is a contract to manage, there are security audits to perform, users must be added and removed, and integrations to perform. You have to take care to ensure you've purchased the correct number of licenses and that they are being used effectively.

And of course, because individuals and departments can buy these applications on their credit card, the process of tracking the apps in use is non-trivial.

Measuring what you manage

Investing in user experience is one of the most important transformations happening in IT today. We need to build a systematic approach that considers the best ways to improve user experience. As the saying goes, “you can't manage what you can't measure,” so let's start measuring user experience.

  • Measure user experience with surveys and technical measures.
  • Measure the long term cost of a digital transformation project against it’s initial investment.
  • Work against a goal to improve user experience.
  • Measure how improved user experience influences retention.

Groove.id helps forward thinking companies manage their SaaS estate by automating the process of creating accounts when needed and removing accounts and transferring assets when they are no longer needed.