Home > The Monday Musings Column > the process is a tool, nothing more

the process is a tool, nothing more

It’s been one of those weekends really. I have had a couple of things come up that have meant some internet research to find a solution to a particular set of problems and so the lap top has taken a pounding, but then so has my patience.
More than thirty years have passed since, armed with a City & Guilds of London Certificate in Computer Programming, I began to specialise in the screen handling elements of data input screens. In those days it was the employees of the company that were my end user customers and |I had two goals to balance; one was to write efficient software that could run with 1k of processing power (yes, that’s all we had) and the other was to make life as easy as possible for the people doing the input.
It was a compromise, for satisfying the latter took up processing space and so there was a trade off, but it the data input aspect was difficult it led to errors and the processing would have to be re-done, so it was almost a double trade off; make the input screen too good and the computer couldn’t run it, do just the basics and the operators would make mistakes and the input would likely be full of errors. Pitching it in the middle took skill and judgement and I loved it as a job.
Working in that environment taught me a lot about finding that sweet spot; yes it is a compromise, but that should not be a dirty word in business, for what we are usually seeking is to make it easy to take the customer’s money whilst helping them to enjoy that process enough to come back for more. And that brings me back to where I started this article, for my efforts to enquire on various products and services were not entirely successful.
Much of what I encountered over the weekend has been clearly designed to make life easy for the folks at the company and not for the customer. The input screens were largely well enough designed in terms of layout, but all too often hindered by things like drop down selections that did not include an appropriate selection for the query. And then there are the product searches; other than testing them with limited data to make sure that they work at the basic level I don’t think that anyone on the design team had ever tried to use them in anger.
Some companies have superb internet sites; one I use exclusively for my rail tickets and it works so well for me because they make it easy for me to use them and another supply much of my needs for books and music for exactly the same reasons (I do still use music and book shops though, because there is no substitute for seeing and handling the product). These are web sites that recognise that the customer is as important as their own people and can balance the needs of both in a way that works well.
The point here is that the process must not be allowed to become an entity in its own right and you always need to be thinking about everyone who will be affected by or involved in the process because if you don’t have the people at both ends of the process in mind then you aren’t going to get it right.
Making it easy for people to deal with you, whatever sector you’re in, is the only way that you should be thinking about. The process is just a tool.

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