Create new documentIn an enterprise system, used by big corporations andorganisations and with a price-tag of well over 100 millionEuros, this icon means “Create new document”.
Credit 30 Maximum interest 1200 Mortgage 3 000 000 Clearance 150 000 000 000 Times overdrawn 10 Risk rating 5In another system, for mid-sized to small companies, everysecond screen looked like this.
1994 –I’ve been working as an IA/UX with digital systems since themid-nineties, and I’ve seen a lot of things like the one’smentioned.However, this is not a talk about absurd interface bloopers.That’s not why I wanted to come here (and not why Idecided to write a book). This is a call to action – a call toarms even.And what motivated me was the trend shown in the nextgraph:
% 15 12 9 6 3 0 1996 2003 Stress & psychological pressure at workIn Sweden, from the mid-nineties to around 2005, the share of the total workforce thatexperienced severe stress at work more than doubled.This graph showed a new trend. Formerly, the main predictors behind stress at work, werebad times, recession, and thus risk of unemployment.But the bad times in Sweden were the ﬁrst half of the nineties. From 1995 onwards, theeconomy was booming and unemployment soon reached a historical low point.So everyone expected these numbers to go down. Instead, the curve went up steeply.The exception, this time, was a radical shift in the workplace, a massive new use oftechnology, digitising and computerising a lot of businesses and sectors in a short time.We often call it the dotcom-bubble; but it affected more than e-commerce and publicwebsites. In workplaces all kinds of new systems were introduced at very high speed.Systems had low usability, and were not well-adapted to the actual work. Often thedevelopers were boys in their late teens or at best early twenties, straight out of college oreven high school, with no own experience of the workplace at all.
+ 1.000.000 8 hrs/dayThis is not a small issue. Sweden is an advanced country, digitised toa high degree.Out of a workforce of four million, one million white-collar workersspend eight hours a day in front of the computer.Even sectors like health-care and education are heavily digitised;even as a teacher or a nurse, you’d spend a lot of time with digitaldevices of all kinds.
1/3It’s estimated, that one third of the total working hours inSweden are spent with the hands in direct contact withtechnology.
M T O T F Angry, stressed or frustrated with IT +20000 2012In a study released this summer, around 20.000 people weresurveyed: 60% said they had problems with IT every week: ashocking 20 % reported problems with their systems EVERY DAY.
Biggest source of frustration on the job? 1. Internet 2. Computer 3. Printer 4. Boss 5. Meetings 7000 2012Yet another recent study gave these results.
Time lost every day Mean estimate, ≈30.000 2006, 2012A mean of several surveys of the time lost because of ITproblems, estimates it at just under thirty minutes a day.These are the estimates of the users themselves. As UX/IAexperts, I and my colleagues often ﬁnd that peopleunderestimate the time wasted. They often can’t see that abetter IA/IxD solution would solve the task much morequickly.
Loses up to 2 hours every week on IT +1000 2006Another way to present the same ﬁndings, from asimilar survey: 75 % report losing up to twohours every weekThese are the statistics. How does it look indetail?
System for creating user’s manuals for trucks 7,5 18 procedures 9,5A truck manufacturer had a system for creating users’manuals for trucks. In this system, changing a number - forexample from “7.5 litres” to “9.5 litres” - required eighteendifferent procedures. Each procedure consisted of severalsteps.There were many possibilities for mistakes, and feedbackfrom the system was often lacking, so you were often notsure if a procedure had been successful. The system wasalso sluggish and often crashed in mid-procedure.
To change one sentence can take one whole working day You feel a complete failure, like your personal competence just blew out the window Being good with words and pictures has no value; it’s all about taming the system I don’t want to work with X any more, I hope I’ll find something else as soon as possibleThis is what people who worked with the systemstold us when my colleagues interviewed them.
UK: • Work-related stress has reached record levels, with 13.4 million lost days a year blamed on the pressures of oﬃce life. • Stress has replaced backache as the biggest cause of absenteeism. • Cases of stress, depression and anxiety are said to have doubled in the past seven years.From The Observer 2003.
UK:• Child Support Agency’s new IT system• Disaster• A parliamentary report found that ”sickness levels amongst the CSA staﬀ have risen sharply since the system went live.”
I’m midway into a sentence about kidney function when the computer abruptly halts. I panic for a moment, fearful that the computer has frozen andthat I’ve lost all my work — something that happens all too frequently. But I soon realize that this is not the case. It turns out that in our electronic medical record system there is a 1,000-character maximum in the “assessment” field.”
What’s going on?Clearly, something strange is going on here.
Although we in fact build machines and computers to do the work forus, it seems that we just get more and more stressed out.I argue that this is the total eﬀect of a lot of small changes in how wework. The workplace has been transformed, in many small steps. Eachand every one of them might have looked perfectly OK. Every oneprobably seemed well-intentioned. Many might even have been tied toa business case (though not nearly as often as you might imagine).
In the book, I examine eight different factors or scenariosthat put a lot of burden on the worker. Not every workplaceexhibits all of them. But I haven’t yet encountered one singleorganisation that hasn’t had at least half of them.If all the factors are present, the risk for heavy stress andadverse health effects is very high.We shan’t have time to go through them all, so I’ll just pick afew.
Too many systemsSince the mid-nineties, the sheer number of applications(systems, sites, software) that we have to use in theworkplace, has exploded. In the supermarket that I studied,they had to use 20–25 different systems - one for orderingmeat, one for ordering tobacco, one for ordering dairyproducts, one for handling coupons, one for handling loyaltycards, etc, etc.
Primula (HR system), Tur och Retur (travel expenses), Raindance (economy), UU+ (budget), Edgar (recruiting), W3D3 (documents), KDB (contracts), UpDok (tracking student’s performances), Time Edit (managing premises), AKKA (catalogue administration), PingPong (course administration), Opus (references), Selma (class web), The student portal and so on …This is a small sample of the administrative systems thatprofessors and teachers at a university have to handle – atthe same time as they are supposed to teach and doresearch.
Treserva (social benefits system) WebbSotis (old social benefits system) Giraﬀ (internal invoicing) Horisonten (accounting) Prognosprogram (economy) Winst (procurement portal) Rappet (client reports) Personec (HR reports) Time Care (work schedule) Winlas Webb (temps worked hours) Time Care pool (assigning temps) Lisa (accident reporting) Adato (rehabilitation process management) Oﬀentliga jobb (recruiting) Telephone self-service systemHere is about half the list of the around 35 administrative Lotus Notes (mail)systems that are used by social workers in Sweden. Webbmail (mail at home)Note that they are simultaneously using a new and an oldsystem for social beneﬁts. That is often the case; a newsystem often does not replace an old one completely. It’soften possible to ﬁnd – or invent – some reason for keepingthe old system as well.
We thought we had 15–20 systems ... ... when we actuallycounted them, it was 73! Health care 2012
Systems are differentThese systems are typically built by ever-changing teams ofconsultants or companies.And as a rule, they are different–in small but crucial details.
Ctrl-O 1) calculate 2) close & do not saveAt one shop - actually a pharmacist’s – two systems whereused simultaneously in the computerised cash register. Onewas to calculate the amount of the prescribed drug; theother was to print the labels for the boxes.In the ﬁrst one, a certain shortcut did just the thing youwanted: calculate the amount. In the next step, however,using the printing function, the same shortcut was assignedto “close and do not save”.
Liza reports hours worked in two systems: one uses point, the other comma 1.5 hours 1,5 hoursHaving to use parallel systems is a reality for many people.Liza is a consultant; she reports time both to her employerand to her client.
What happens if she uses a commain the system that wants a point?1,5 hours 1,5 hours The system ignores the15 hours comma and registers 15 hours, without any error message.
Used seldom, but ... • Put in vacation plans - how often? • Hard to learn • ”...how did you handle this system, then?” • Even if each system is used quite seldom … • … some system is used each month or weekMany systems may be used infrequently - which makeslearning harder. “How on earth are you supposed to handlethis system, then?”But since there are so many systems, you encounter thissituation every month or every week.
No trainingAdd to this that new systems are introduced at a much higher speedand frequency; and that we don’t take into account the time andeffort staff have to devote to vigilance - learning, remembering anddoing security procedures, bug ﬁxes, updates, passwords,Among the strangest things that you ﬁnd in the workplace, is that solittle training, so little introduction, so little support is given inhandling all these systems.True, systems should be intuitive - but it’s an illusion to think thatall could be mastered without any introduction.
Treserva (social benefits system) WebbSotis (old social benefits system) Giraﬀ (internal invoicing) Horisonten (accounting) ”It’s just a small Prognosprogram (economy) Winst (procurment portal) system” Rappet (client reports) Personec (HR reports) Time Care (work schedule) Winlas Webb (temps worked hours) Time Care pool (assign temps) Lisa (accident reporting) Adato (rehabilitation process managment) Oﬀentliga jobb (recruiting) Telephone self-service system Lotus Notes (mail)The excuse for Webbmail (mail at home) not giving training is often “It’s only asmall system”.Yes - another small system added to the thirty-forty-ﬁfty we already have!
This lady works in the supermarket. The system she uses has well over 120screens, which is by no means unique; many other systems are much bigger.Every screen can have over a hundred controls (fields, buttons, menus, etc).But we see only one screen. If we were to visualise the total size of the system shehas to master, we could for example print out screen-dumps and paste them tothe wall in front of her. But that would not be enough. We would have to use thewall to her right, the table, even the ceiling to try to visualise it ...... and when it adds up like this, to me it starts to look ...... very much like this system.
Two years trainingTo handle this system, you get two years’ training.
Two days trainingTo master this system, she has two days’ training.
YOUR PRODUCT x-ray delta one/flickr under a cc-licenseTo summarise a bit:This is your view of your IT-product. And it might be right ...but ...(Photo: x-ray delta one/ﬂickr under a cc-license)
The user’s experience pchweat/ﬂickr under cc-license... the user’s environment will still be this.(Photo: pchweat/ﬂickr under a cc-license)
Jared Spool Martin Kliehm/ﬂickr under cc-licenseJared Spool tried to ﬁnd out: “Is there a certainmethod that always gives good results?”His answer was NO. There is no winning method. Butthere is a number of traits that you ﬁnd behindsuccessful products and projects.Photo: Martin Kliehm/ﬂickr under cc-license
Jared: Has every member of the team, during the last six weeks, observed real users using the product or service for at least two hours?This is the most interesting, and perhaps the mostimportant.But when you design systems to be used in theworkplace, I don’t think that is enough. You can’t look atjust the speciﬁc product. You have to look at the totaldigital workplace. You have to look at the total situationat work.
Observe the usersWhen my colleague Richard Gatarski and a few friends wanted to dine in theSwedish city of Norrköping a few weeks ago, they booked a table at a downtownItalian restaurant that seemed nice.When they arrived, they were greeted by the headwaiter, who asked if they had areservation. Richard conﬁrmed, and the headwaiter looked at his computer screen.”Gatarski? Hm, let’s see .. yes, there’s your reservation. Welcome!”The headwaiter then picked up what Richard ﬁrst thought must be some kind ofnew, electronic touch-pen, and moved it toward the screen. Richard is a tech savvyInternet entrepreneur, and therefore quite curious about what kind of new gadgetthey used at this restaurant. So he leaned in and looked a little closer …Photo: Richard Gatarski
… and suddenly realized that it was a perfectly ordinary whiteboard felt-tip pen. The headwaiter justdraw an ”X” over their booking, directly on the computer screen!”That’s very interesting,” Richard asked the headwaiter. ”How come you do that?””Well, you know,” the headwaiter answered with a big sigh. ”The guys that create these kinds ofsystems … they have …. Well, you can’t do things the way you wanna do them. You can check off areservation in the system, with the mouse, but hey, it’s at least four clicks away from this screen. Andyou can’t tell if the guests have been showed to their table or are waiting in the bar. So it’s much easierjust to draw on the screen. (And when the evening is over I just wipe the screen with a cloth.) We’revery busy here, and this works just ﬁne.”The point is, that the waiter at this wanted to give the customers the best possibleimpression, focusing on them from the very beginning. Remember: ﬁrst impressions last. He did notwant to tell them ”wait a minute” and focus on the machine.The full story is here: http://javlaskitsystem.se/2012/02/whats-the-waiter-doing-with-the-computer-screen/Photo: Richard Gatarski
Jonas: Has every member of the team, during the last six weeks, observed real users do everything they do at work for at least two days?On the other hand, in a conventional usability-testingsituation, for instance in a lab where the customers probablyexist only as instructions, this system might have erformedquite well.So this is my version of Jared’s statement. When you’remaking systems or products that are to be used in theworkplace, you have to spend much more time to be able tocapture the full experience of your users. As a rule of thumb:at least two days.
Who’s to blame?By now you’ll be wondering “how come such idiotic systemsexist? Who’s responsible?”
The nerd? Not thatesc.ape(d) / Flickr much The nerd? Sometimes, certainly, when interfaces are clumsy or too technical. But actually, he’s the smallest part of the problem, and often quite eager to do better. (Photo: esc.ape(d)/ﬂickr under a cc-license)
Let’s examine a few more problems.Let’s examine a few more issues, and then come back toanother (perhaps somewhat surprising) reason for many ofthe problems.
Something is lost ...In many situations, it’s clear that something in theworkplace is lost.
”One black and tan, please” ”Can’t do that ...”A friend tries to order a “black and tan”– half-Guinness, half-lager – in a pub. Although thebartender has both Guinness and lager in the pub, hetells him “Sorry, I can’t do that ...”
”... the system won’t let me”“... there’s no entry for that in the computerised cash-register”This is perhaps a banal and mundane example, but the sameprinciple shows up in many places and many contexts:systems that limit the way you can conduct your work.
Loss of ﬂexibilityIt’s rather paradoxical - since the Internet and digitaltechnology have made our lives as consumers and privatecitizens more free and ﬂexible.
Process managment More ”command and control” Dis-empowermentBut in the workplace, there’s a growing element ofcommand-and-control, driven by it.
Controls my work ”in an annoying and unreasonable way” 8000 2012Indeed, in a survey among 8000 white-collar workers, 50%agreed that ”IT systems control my work in an annoying andunreasonable way”.Which is a bit strange - since we invented machines to dothe work for us.Are we working for them?
Meet Lena Licensed practical nurse, providing for the elderly in a public home care programLena is a licensed practical nurse (LPN - in some countries, equivalentto "enrolled nurse" or "Division 2 nurse"). She works in a Public HomeCare program, providing for the elderly.She carries a digital device – a smartphone, or a bar-code reading pen -that registers her every task and every move during the day.
Lena’s schedule• Arrive at elderly A ✓• Food: 7 minutes ✓• Bedclothes: 4 minutes ✓• To elderly B: 13 minutes for ✓ She must check in with her device• Food: 7 minutes single task✓ every• Sweeping: 12 minutes ✓done• To elderly C: 19 minutes ✓She’s connected to a planning system that breaks down her working dayinto a single-minute schedule.She has to register every single task in her device, connected to a centralmanagement database that creates wonderful reports.But where is the compassion?And where is trust?What happens to a person’s motivation for her job, when she’s controlledin every single detail?Can you imagine having to work like that?
command IT + & controlUnfortunately, IT goes very well with command & control.
Chores, not workIt is highly typical that many of the things now demanded of us at workare things that we really don’t feel are “our REAL work”. Not really helpingthe elderly. Not really engaging with pupils in the classroom. Not thethings that made us want to be nurses, doctors, teachers, etc.Social workers, doctors, police, teachers are now spending more time ondocumenting and reporting than on actually meeting the clients, thepatients, the pupils.
”...we areoverburdenedbyadministrativesystems”Professors and teachersat Uppsala UniversityThis is an alarming article, published last year by a group ofprofessors and researchers at Uppsala University. “We’redrowning in administrative systems that take more and moretime away from teaching and doing research”, they wrote. (Wesaw part of their list of systems in an earlier slide.)
+6%They note that a lot of things, which were previously handled by a centraladministration, are now pushed out to the periphery - the departments. Theynow have to do wages, planning, budget ... etc, etc.But, in spite of this, central administration has not shrunk. On the contrary, itsbudget has grown by 6% (which is a lot, in an organisation where you often getMINUS 1 or 2 % annually).The university administration replied that 6 % was not exceptional; indeed, it wasthe average for Swedish universities. The professors’ ﬁnal reply was “then it’seven worse than we thought”.But the number “6 percent” stuck in my head. Where had I heard “6 percent”before?As it turned out, I had to go back in time.
In 1955 a then little-known history professor -a specialist in navalhistory – at the university in Singapore wrote an article in ‘TheEconomist’.
He could show that although the number of seamen in the BritishNavy had fallen quickly during the ﬁrst half of the Twentiethcentury, the number of Admiralty officials in Whitehall had nearlydoubled.
In the same way, as the British colonies gainedindependence, the staff at the Colonial Office just grew andgrew.
C Northcote ParkinsonHis name was Cyril Northcote Parkinson.
His “startling discovery”, as ‘The Economist’ put it, was – in short –that bureaucrats strive to get more power, and they do it by hiringsubordinates.
Thus, an ever-growing class of middle managers is created - withoutany more actual work being done.
Parkinson’s lawThis is the core of what has come to be known asParkinson’s Law.
Parkinson collected his writings in the book “Parkinson’slaw”, which became a bestseller all over the world ...
+6 % Growth of bureaucracyAnd what Parkinson found was exactly this: a bureaucracy will grow“naturally” each year - by 6 percent.
So the problem is not really the nerd - it’s middlemanagement.
VALUE I suggest, IT systems are often really not about this.As IAs or UXers, we probably take for granted that the reasons forprojects, for services that we are about to develop, must be essentiallygood, rational, benevolent.Of course there will be disturbances or interference from egos, frompolitics, or for practical reasons. But the reasons behind the projectshould be sound, about values and the demands of customers.Given what we’ve learned from the history of bureaucracy, I propose amore radical theory of IT systems in the workplace.
POWER It’s about power for middle management.The fundamental drive for many systems is NOT to createvalue - but to create power.
Professor Parkinson lived in a time when it was possible to hire newpeople easily, and increase your power that way. That is virtuallyimpossible in today’s organisations.
What is possible, however, is to implement a new IT system. Being incharge of an IT system means having power, to inﬂuence decisions, tochoose directions ...So IT is an ideal vehicle for the purposes of the middle management class.It’s also sexy, gloriﬁed; almost by deﬁnition, an IT system is a good thing- it’s the icon of our times, of progress and the future.All this means, that it’s not really important for a system to deliver value,if it delivers these other things. And usability or user experience is notimportant at all.
Bureaucracy 1.0 Bureaucracy 2.0Parkinson also noticed that one bureaucrat will create work for two others.It’s rather easy to see that one IT system creates the need forapproximately two other systems. If you start with a simple system formoney in and out, it’s easy to put in the argument for a budget projectionsystem, a time reporting system, then you’ll need a system for aggregatingdata from other sources, etc, etc.
”No clear vision or idea behind the IT system” 8000 2012This might sound crazy. But it ﬁts with a number of empiricalobservations.For example, in one of the Swedish surveys of white-collar workers, amajority - 60 % - said that there was “no clear or ﬁrmly-establishedreason given for the new system.”
85 concrete do NOT set % effect goals for new business system ComputerSweden 2010Or that just 15% of companies, which invested in new businesssystems, had set any concrete effect goals for the new system ...
40 %abandonedOr the strange fact, established over several years of studies (forexample the Standish reports), that around 40 % of IT projects areabandoned in mid-construction.It’s hard to understand why this happens so often, if the projectswould really have had good value as a clear goal.
Work with internal systems – people need yor helpAt conferences like this, e-commerce or consumer products and services are often infocus.I invite you, I encourage you, I beg you - come and work in corporate systems. Your helpis badly needed. People are hurt. IA and UX can have a profound impact.
Take into consideration• Other systems• Speed / frequency of introduction of new systems• The burden of vigilanceIf you design systems that are to be used in the workplace - pleaseconsider these points.
Do not accept training being cut out... because YOU will get the blame when users complain over thesystem.
Radical simplicityYou’ll have to aim for radical simplicity. If you don’t, people in theworkplace will invent a work-around. Or just quit.
”To do”-list app ClearThis simple brilliant to do-list app was a huge success.
If the systems are not used, you will never getany value from them.
Develop local, company-wide standardsYour company will have a design manual, that is handed over to every agency that will do adsor print etc.You could have your own interaction design manual, that governs crucial elements of the UI.
It’s not the old people that are mad, it’s the young.They expect things to just work.
”Consumer-grade usability”The systems used at work are still to a large extent grey, ugly,poorly-adapted to human tasks and needs.There is no reason why the systems we (have to) use at work shouldnot be as pleasant, easy to use and well-integrated as the systemswe choose to download to our smartphones. Workers need“consumer-grade usability”.
But it’s not just about the interface.This is not just a question of the interface.
Enabling Empowerment Trust Self-organizing vs Control DistrustSo many things that the web and digital age have given us as consumers, in our private life, giveus freedom. Enable empowerment. Build upon trust. Make self-organising possible.The trend in the workplace is the opposite: More control. More distrust.
Beware of Bureaucracy 2.0The most important thing to understand is that IT is actually thedriving force here. Nobody would dream of implementing thesepolicies using paper forms; that would seem ridiculous.And in contrast to the guild of form-makers, which catered for theneeds of the bureaucrats of Parkinson’s ﬁrst discovery, the ITindustry today is an aggressive, multi-billion industry. And yet manyworkplace systems are indeed just plain forms - on screen instead ofon paper.
Stupid bloody system!This is the book - currently just in Swedish. The subtitle is ”How adismal digital work environment stresses us at work – and how totake back control”.
Thank you! Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @Jonas_Blind_Hen Site: www.javlaskitsystem.se Slideshare: Jonas_inUseIf you have examples of stupid systems in the workplace - or ofcourse good systems - please contact me.