Tell me more about that? Gathering User Requirements and Context of Use for Global Enterprise Applications


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Tell me more about that? Gathering User Requirements and Context of Use for Global Enterprise Applications.

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Tell me more about that? Gathering User Requirements and Context of Use for Global Enterprise Applications

  1. 1. Tell me more about that? Gathering UserRequirements and Context of Use for GlobalEnterprise ApplicationsUltan Ó Broin (December 2012)Tell me more about that? A standard phrase used by usability professionals to elicitinformation from users when gathering requirements before designing a solution. Thequestion’s probing, open-ended nature is the very essence of the iterative, user-centered exploration that makes for building a great user experience.For enterprise applications (used for Enterprise Resource Planning or CustomerRelationship Management [CRM] functions), understanding how workers accomplishtasks distinguishes user experience (UX) from usability’s traditional emphasis on userinterface (UI) layout and look and feel. In Oracle, we say that applications UX isabout how you work, not about how you click. Using a range of disciplines, a UXteam delivers thoughtfully designed solutions that account for anything of importanceworkers rely on to complete a task. This broad consideration we can usefully refer toas context of use; the core of successful user requirements gathering.Context of use varies by enterprise location, country, region, culture, and so on,nuanced by worldwide trends. Intuit’s founder Scott Cook, explaining Intuit’s failureto expand globally, highlights the negative business impact of omitting local UXrequirements:“We didn’t build our products based on a deep study of thecountries. We built them based on what we had in the US. Ikicked myself. We should have known better.”1The challenge for makers of global enterprise applications is to uncover how localusers work and then bring a compelling and modern UX to life in a single softwareapplication. That means building apps from code that meets internationalization(i18n) requirements, translating the application, adding localizations features(reporting, statutory, compliance functionality and so on), enabling customers toimplement the application to reflect their business processes, providing forcustomization and extensions, and for individual workers to personalize their userexperiences.                                                                                                                1  Intuits Scott Cook on Failed Global Expansion: We Shouldve Known Better[Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)Page 1 of 12  
  2. 2. Figure 1: Oracle E-Business Suite tax localizations configuration (Image via Ultan Ó Broin)Exploring context of use demands that no assumptions be made about how peoplework. Instead, it must be researched by observing real workers performing real tasks,experiencing real interruptions, relying on real assistance, all in a real workenvironments (be it at home, in the office, or on the go). Generalized best practiceusability guidance read on the web must be validated for enterprise applicationssuitability by testing with user groups in their working world.Enterprise applications designers must be informed by usability best practices and byuser expectations globally but they must also accommodate the reality of working inan environment subject to requirements such as access control, security of assets,legal compliance, reporting conventions, complex business rules and processes,application performance, integration, scalability, and so on.UX Context of Use versus L10n Conventional WisdomTake the widespread localization (L10n) guidance about the dangers of portrayingbody parts in icons. Reasonable as a general principle in the past, but years ofbusiness globalization, the influence of the Internet and worldwide social media usehave changed perceptions about what is acceptable in the stuffy old world of work.So, a “thumbs up” icon commonly used by social media is now widely accepted asmeaning “approval” in the enterprise context too, where many tasks performed areinherently social anyway. Using the human-based gesture on the context of the streetsof Bangladesh, Iran or Thailand, is a different matter.Figure 2: Thumbs Up: Accepted by enterprise apps users worldwide due to increasedglobalization and social media use. (Image via Facebook)Page 2 of 12  
  3. 3. Furthermore, icons may have become globally associated with actions even when theicon’s inspiration has long since faded as relevant. What remains as universallyrecognized is the metaphor behind that icon. So, although Scandinavian applicationscustomers may be bemused at a 3.5-inch disk icon used for the save command andrefer to it as the washing machine, they know what that icon means and how to use it.User experience expectations about the quality of enterprise applications are nowsuper critical, due to the consumerization of information technology (COIT).Enterprise applications have long stopped being green screen behemoths and mustnow be simple to use, deploy and sell for desktop, cloud, and mobile deploymentsalike. Localization guidance needs to reflect this. A bare footprint icon used toindicate the size and distribution of installed software components on a system mightbe risking offense in some cultures, but realistically it should have been rejected as apoor user experience choice for an enterprise app in the first place.Figure 3: Gone but not forgotten. The 3.5-inch disk icon save metaphor is globally accepted.Seeking agreement on a replacement may be more trouble than it is worth. (Image via Ultan ÓBroin)What is Context of Use?Exploring context of use begins with the National Institute of Standards andTechnology (NIST) Common Industry Specification for Usability – Requirements(CISU-R) document.2NIST CISU-R was created to help website developers, usability professionals, and ITimplementers to define usability requirements for their projects (and levels ofusability testing criteria and methods too). My employer, Oracle contributed to theinitiative. CISU-R defines context of use as:“The users, tasks, equipment (hardware, software, and materials), and the physicaland social environments in which a product is used. [ISO 9241-11:1998]”                                                                                                                2 NISTIR 7422 Common Industry Specification for Usability - Requirements [Online]Available from: 9-Jan-2013)Page 3 of 12  
  4. 4. Context of use provides information on intended use of the product or service. It doesnot specify product globalization requirements or methods, although it doesrecommend including “nationality” and “culture”. The CISU-R underlyingcompliance (Level 1) for user requirements gathering provides for seven context ofuse areas. Adding local UX examples illustrates how context of use varies bylocation: 1. Stakeholders: Refers to end users and other parties who have a legitimate interest in the product throughout its lifecycle. For a financial accounting application, such stakeholders might include the external auditors, taxation authorities, other functional departments in the company, as well as the accountants. Naturally, the list of stakeholders varies even for the same application in the same enterprise if located in different parts of the world. Labor unions, or work councils (such as the German Betriebsrats) may need to be involved in the design and deployment of new technology. How people are organized in work determines what features might be used, and when. Consider that requirements stakeholders for global applications might include internal L10n departments or external vendors too. The cost of omitting a key stakeholder can be costly. CRM applications that require service teams in hotels to scan in bar codes on room doors rather than typing in data might needs to involve the housekeeping department in case they clean them off.3   2. Intended user groups: Refers to the key characteristics of the main user groups critical to the business or who use the application most often. This aspect usefully covers broad globalization aspects for enterprise applications. Consider what languages the users of applications require, but also what is the language of the business? Are users working in a global company with regional offices or country based subsidiaries. A multinational 24 X 7 operation may use many local languages, or English or French as its business of language. The UI must also be localized to reflect locale formats and information. Consider what information in what format is to be exchanged between parts of globalized operations and other external parties too. Be wary of the claim that everyone in business now speaks English. Workers often understand domain-based applications terminology best in their native languages even when they can converse in English, and certainly public sector requirements would require translations be provided. There may be legal requirements that certain terminology or languages be provided, for example by the Office québécois de la langue française. Starbucks in Québec is known as Café Starbucks Coffee. KFC is PFK (Poulet Frit Kentucky). The Australian state of Victoria recommends creating a                                                                                                                3  Is This The Most Boring Branch Of Enterprise Mobility? [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  Page 4 of 12  
  5. 5. language profile for workforces to facilitate compliance with health and safety requirements.4 3. Main goals for each user group: This identifies the intended outcomes from using the application that have value to users or the business. Again, this may vary globally as users do not work or behave the same way, even within the same corporation, and local business processes and rules may impact goals. Accounts payable clerks may have a general goal of avoiding data entry errors, but expenses policies and how expenses are processed vary, in some cases hard copies are required, scanned documents are permissible, itemized receipts need to include names individuals, and so on. 4. Intended computing or other technical environment: Covers hardware and application capabilities and features, and the artifacts they create. This area might cover everything from the national broadband provision or local wireless connectivity to availability of particular devices in a country to identifying the locale-based paper printing sizes (US Letter versus A4 in the UK, for example). Consider that mobile solutions based on expensive devices, native apps and heavy data consumption may not be appropriate in some countries or regions. Although we know where the next 10 million apps are coming from (BRIC and MIST5), there are other emerging market requirements. The BBC World Service has launched applications for Nokia feature phones, not smart phones, providing localized news content for listeners in emerging markets.6 In some countries, users of mobile solutions may prefer to send SMS text messages instead of making expensive phone calls or images where cost dictates, so design accordingly to those requirements. Facebook introduced Facebook Zero, a text based-based basic feature version of its service, in 2010 to cater for mid-range feature phones. In Africa, the number of people using Facebook increased 114 percent in 18 months.7 How about this from the developers of leading South African mobile app 2Go, which has more users than Facebook in Nigeria?                                                                                                                4  Communicating occupational health and safety across languages [Online] Availablefrom: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  5  How to Enter Emerging Markets: Mobile [Online] Available from: 9-Jan-2013)6  BBC targets emerging markets with World Service news apps for Nokia Series 40devices, in 11 languages [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)7  Google, Facebook And The Next Billion Users [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)Page 5 of 12  
  6. 6. “Building mobile technology for an African market is tough. Data and SMS are expensive, and our users are price sensitive and savvy. That means we have to deliver an application that uses the absolute minimum of system resources and bandwidth. Our response has been to develop proprietary communications protocols and compression algorithms that minimize the app’s data usage.”8 Other environmental dimensions might be availability of cloud computing solutions or data protection coverage. How about loss of connectivity and offline modes requirements? Can user experience solutions cater for such variables in a scalable way? Technical requirements include the availability of any necessary language technology-related capabilities such as translated versions and tool support. Is there natural language processing (NLP) support for your voice or avatar- based application solutions, or others? Users Left To Their Own Devices Where does the working day end and personal time begin? The worldwide phenomenon of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) represents a classic context of use exploration. The consumerization of information technology (COIT), largely driven by mobilization, sets new expectations about what devices and apps are used to perform business tasks and when, driving a very high quality of enterprise user experience overall. Workers might personally enable corporate-owned mobile devices with apps used in a personal capacity (LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook, and so on) as well as work-provisioned apps. BYOD is subject to requirements that may vary by enterprise policy but also by country or region, reflecting cultural, social, and political factors. Workers may value leisure time differently by culture and need to “switch off” in different ways. 5. Intended physical and social environments: Covers physical location (such as remote or office-based work), ergonomic factors such as lighting and temperature, and organizational aspects such as how workers are managed or supervised, health and safety issues, financial or security risks, and so on. All vary by location.                                                                                                                8  The African Mobile App That’s Bigger Than Facebook Nigeria [Online] Availablefrom: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)Page 6 of 12  
  7. 7. Watch the super video from Human Factors International (HFI) about cross- cultural design9 to understand how medical device design was impacted by attitude of the local caregivers, their literacy level, water quality and even climate. “The only solution is to design for the local customer’s ecosystem and the local customer’s feelings.” says HFI’s Apala Lahiri Chavan, explaining how the design for a banking solution in India (with its hierarchical, caste based society) when applied to less stratified African countries led to user alienation. Local health and safety regulations in some jobs may require use of gloves so think about those pinch feature on mobile. Very secure enterprises or public sector or government agencies may prohibit the carrying or use of personal devices or applications or any integration with cloud or third-party applications. Remember, using mobile phones while driving is against the law in many places, so designing for headset and audio notifications, and so on is required for some mobile solutions. 6. Scenarios of use illustrating how users carry out their tasks in a specified context: These scenarios describe how users meet their goals. They tell the story about a day in the life of workers’ activities, their motivations, and how they use the product to complete tasks. A mobile application for an insurance company risk assessors based on availability of property owners to interview, and optimized for entering structured data and minimizing free form text that assessors type in will work in the UK.10 But do all risk assessors work the same way internationally, or by domain? Could voice entry, cameras or scanning in of data with OCR work in other places? 7. Prerequisite documentation or training materials: Where required, this specifies what user assistance materials are provided and for whom. Considerations here include localized versions and i18n enabling of any delivering any delivery technology it. Learning experiences may also vary. The evidence from the enterprise space is towards expertise being the key differentiator between types of users rather than culture (or other dimensions), though some cultures might react differently, so research is required. Coca Cola Bottling used Angry Birds to move its workforce to an iPad-based working environment,11 but would that onboarding experience transfer to every country easily? Solutions need to reflect what is appropriate for the culture and workers. This requirement sometimes enforced by law, even in the US where the Occupational Safety and Health Act (1970) requires training to be provided in a language that workers understand.                                                                                                                9  HFI Animate: Cross Cultural Design: Getting It Right the First Time [Online]Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  10  Why this $90 Billion UK Insurer is High on BlackBerry PlayBooks  [Online]Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  11  Is This The Most Boring Branch Of Enterprise Mobility? [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  Page 7 of 12  
  8. 8. Starting to Uncover Context of UseLanguage professionals, and other non-UX experts, may also gather userrequirements or contribute to such efforts. The task doesn’t require special resources,expertise or techniques, and once representative workers and work environments havebeen located, the process begins.Gathering requirements and exposing the context of use means engaging with userswhere and how they work, and observing and recording their activities as they goabout completing tasks, while asking them to explain by talking out loud or to tellmore about their thoughts and actions.Observation of even the humblest item’s use is a major UX opportunity. A Post-It (orsticky) note attached to a PC screen might mean a recall failure for a feature, a needfor organized information, a collaboration requirement (the note being used to passinformation to a colleague), or even a configurable notification message (if used as areminder). Perhaps, it is just a hot date. It depends on the context of use.Researching mobile workers in different parts of the world might reveal variances inUX requirements such as: headset use (a legal or consumer preference); number andtypes of devices carried; preference settings (vibration versus audio notifications);methods of communication (using SMS distribution lists instead of email); use ofdevice features such as cameras or bar codes as determined by law, technicalenvironment or cultural convention; whether NFC or electronic wallet solutions areused for payments, and so on.As an exercise, the next time you visit a coffee house or store, imagine you aredesigning solutions for those students, remote workers, or sales professionals in thefield sitting there with their devices. How might working in a cafe vary even withinthe same city? Is there always Wi-Fi? What device and data security arrangements arerequired? How do noise levels impact using Siri or Google Voice to entercommands)? Is the location accessible? What are the opening hours? Are the chairscomfortable with power outlets within easy reach? Now consider the global aspect.How would you design for varying dimensions?Figure 4: Cafés in Berlin, Melbourne, and San Francisco provide contrasting contexts of use.(Images via Ultan Ó Broin)Asking a Local to Find Real UsersPage 8 of 12  
  9. 9. Rely on local knowledge to find real representative workers to start the userrequirements process. In enterprises, such people might be selected through workscouncils, labor unions, departmental managers, HR departments, by reference to jobdescriptions, and so on. Suitable subjects might be approached through internationaluser groups and user communities, conferences, meetups and other events.Subsidiaries’ sales, marketing, and support organizations will also know where to findcustomers with users to gather representative requirements from. In some cases,specialist in-country agencies may be employed to source representative worker androle scenarios.Crowdsourcing for information in the enterprise space is not without problems asexpertise and representative tasks are critical to reliable and valid UX research, butsubjects with the right characteristics may be found from the community whenacknowledged as reputable by other members.Screening for potential users and companies helps focus the context of use. Havingaccess to professional UX user profiles and personas helps, but relying on the sourcematerial of real workers doing real tasks in a real environment is as good a start asyou need.Language professional insight into local markets, trends, and access to resources andinformation is a rich resource to mine. Translators and interpreters are sometimesrequired too when non-local researchers conduct usability studies with local workersin the wild. By participating in UX requirements gathering and later stages of theuser-centered design process, language professionals have an ideal opportunity toproactively identify translation issues early, or start terminology development,especially important in the enterprise space where specialized domains abound.Knowing context of use is powerful insight for language professionals to enabling thedelivery of a quality localized product reflecting the domain and what workers reallyrequire.You can read more about studying users in the wild worldwide (“ethnography”) onthe Oracle Usable Apps website,12 and about how language and UX professionalsworking together benefitted everyone on Blogos.13Context of Use: Some Local AnecdotesAs a best practice, design flexibly, with i18n, L10n, customization andpersonalization in mind, enabling multimodal and fallback solutions where necessary.Always provide for scalability, migration of solutions, and continuance of business inthe enterprise whether workers are in the office, on the street, or at home. Considerthese local stories:                                                                                                                12  [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)13  Translation and UX Working Together: Oracle Mobile Applications Example[Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  Page 9 of 12  
  10. 10. In Germany, Volkswagen agreed with the company’s works council to stop sendingemails to employees’ Blackberries outside of work hours. Henkel has agreed a NewChristmas and New Year period amnesty for work-related email. UK trade unions inresponse emphasized their role as stakeholders and called for contextual solutions.14Irish mobile users found out those SMS texts in Gaeilge cost more than in Englishbecause of the síneadh fada diacritic. Users were charged for the equivalent threeEnglish text messages if they included a single síneadh fada in a text of 160characters. It is cheaper to send a digital image.15In Africa, dual SIM mobile phones enabling users to use different SIM cards from onedevice are used to deal with variances in network coverage and roaming costs.Broadly, this approach has potential ideal for reducing number of devices carried andfor providing separate numbers for regional use or user roles.16Apps used by users in Islamic locales need feature support for religious customs andrituals such as those relating to Ramadan.17 Oracle E-Business Suite supports the Hijricalendar. The BlackBerry Call to Pray app includes features for prayer times, Qibladirection, Athkar and a Hijri calendar, with automatic geographic updates for prayertimings and social sharing through BBM, SMS, email and Facebook.Figure 5: Asgatech’s Call to Pray app for BlackBerry (Image via Asgatech)                                                                                                                14  Volkswagen turns off Blackberry email after work hours  [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  15  Texters charged for the síneadh fada [Online] Available from: (Retrieved9-Jan-2013)  16  Dual SIM mobile phones ideal for Africa [Online] Available from: 9-Jan-2013)  17  Mobile apps increasingly help Muslims observe Ramadan [Online] (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  Page 10 of 12  
  11. 11. A security ban by the Indian government on bulk SMS and MMS use by mobile usersat times of unrest led to a surge in uptake of mobile messaging apps such asWhatsApp and Nimbuzz. Telemarketers switched usage habits accordingly.18Validating User Requirements Through Usability TestingAlthough CISU-R specifies context of use as a basic requirement, it’s important toestablish testing criteria and methods too to obtain buyoff from designs andprototypes and testable implementations. Detailed exploration of usabilitymeasurement and testing is an area too long for this article, and may seem dauntingon a global scale, but inspiration comes from demonstrated best practices.Making efficient use of language professional and development stakeholdersidentifies potential L10n or i18n issues upfront before a single line of code is written,reducing cost of iteration.The Mozilla project enabled higher levels of localization (L20N) by asking for alocalization stakeholder review of the wireframes for the Mozilla Gaia apps.19 TheWikiMedia team has published a useful approach to translating wireframes usingFirefox Pencil and to testing them in a multilingual environment using Google+ andGoogle+ Hangouts.20A Win-Win InvestmentA great UX means considering local context of use when designing and developingapplications for enterprise applications users.Knowing local user requirements is an investment that yields high ROI not only forlanguage and UX professionals and ultimately workers, but entire businesses. Whatyou find in one market may yield major innovations and insights for others. Kenya’sM-Pesa simplified mobile money transfer solution has inspired mobile bankinginnovation to reflect context of use in more “developed” markets.21                                                                                                                18    India Restricts SMS, Mobile Messaging Apps See Boost [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  19  Localizability reviews for Gaia apps wireframes [Online] Available from:!topic/ (Retrieved9-Jan-2013)  20  Designing for the multilingual web [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  21  M-Pesa: Kenyas mobile wallet revolution [Online] Available from: (Retrieved 9-Jan-2013)  Page 11 of 12  
  12. 12. Figure 6: Safaricom M-Pesa, a mobile money transfer app first used in Kenya, is the most usedapp in the world, running 200 transactions per second. (Image via Safaricom)Language is part of UX. But cultural convention, local business and personalpractices and technical and other environmental factors also need to be taken intoaccount.Gathering user requirements and exploring context of use is not rocket science.Existing tools, resources and knowledge make it all very doable even for smallcompanies or individuals. UX and language professionals working together have beenproven to have benefits for all. If you are a language professional then offer yourservices to designers and implementers for gathering requirements. If you are adesigner or UX professional then reach out to that language person.“Tell me more about that” user-centered requirements gathering removes the risk ofthe dreaded “But, all I wanted was…” user experience feedback from the post-application implementation of the product lifecycle where the cost of change is highand agile processes cannot expose surprises early. What I have not discussed here ishow to make trade-offs between the various dimensions of context of use. Usingcollaborative, iterative design process involving the key stakeholders to agree andobtain buy-in, combined with a change management process, is required.A true skill is bringing language and UX expertise together to focus on the designproblem, referring back to the context of use to remain focused on the issue. Onlywhen the problem is removed for the user, can design said to be truly done.Ultimately that accomplishment must be proven by usability testing with real peopleperforming real work tasks in real settings.Ultan Ó Broin (@localization) evangelizes on the importance of usability to the product globalizationand development community and conducts usability research into how enterprise apps users workglobally. He has over two decades of experience of technology globalization experience in blue chipcompanies and outreach through articles, books, conferences, and social media. Opinions expressed arehis own and not the responsibility of Oracle or anybody else. Images used remain the copyright ofowners.Page 12 of 12