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CIO Upfront: The User Experience guru

CIO Upfront: The User Experience guru

Caroline Jones of Aderant says her job is about striving to marry the complex demands of end users with business strategies. She explains why her field – user experience – is becoming a strategic imperative for organisations.

Caroline Jones of Aderant says her job is about striving to marry the complex demands of end users with business strategies. She explains why her field – User Experience – is becoming a strategic imperative for organisations.

Not all software products are created equal, and adoption rates can vary among different solutions. The key defining factor is User Experience, says Jones, who is Manager of Experience Design for legal software provider Aderant, based in Albany, Auckland.

Technology developed with an emphasis on User Experience (UX) will create high levels of adoption, increased innovation and the ability to create new cost-reduction opportunities, she says.

User experience is an all encompassing field, she explains. It covers all the different aspects relating to a person’s interaction with a company and its services, and involving them in the design process.

While the field has been around for quite some time in other countries, it is just really starting to mature in New Zealand, she says.

Jones joined Aderant, a global company, late last year, and has more than 15 years of experience in the design industry.

Before this, Jones was with the mobile division of Fiserve, where she set up and ran the User Experience team. The focus of the Auckland office was on mobile, so she and the team worked on apps for banking across the globe.

Read more: NZ’s unified communications market tipped to grow over 3 per cent in next two years

Aderant provides a comprehensive practice management suite for legal firms which incorporates everything from financial forecasting to billing and capturing people’s time.

This includes case management capabilities that allows a lawyer to capture and save all of the notes and documents that they gather relating to a Matter.

The users of Aderant software also include paralegals, and finance and administrative staff in legal firms.

In order for the business to receive the most value, a software organisation needs to involve the User Experience team early on in the process.

Read more: A lesson on interoperability from the healthcare sector

“When the first spark of an idea is first floated, user experience teams can come in and identify the type of research that can be conducted to surface the right types of insights, they can then coordinate with the product management team and the people that are working on the strategy.”

She differentiates UX with UI or user interface design. UI is where you focus on the screen, she states. “That is great and you can work through designing a very usable experience. But if you have not done the earlier stage research, you may have missed the mark when it comes to designing a really useful experience.

William Davis, director of engineering and head of the New Zealand operations for Aderant, says the growth of the entire app and mobile phone markets have “really shifted” people’s thinking on user experience.

There's limited visual space on phones and the whole concept of touch has changed the dimensions people are working with, he states.“Probably, more than anything, the apps that succeed in the marketplace are those that are attractive and easy to use."

Read more: Nurturing graduates to become high performing team members

“A lot of software vendors are playing the feature parity game,” adds Jones. “When you get to that point, user experience is one of the ways you can differentiate yourself from your competitor.”

Next: From Web design to UX

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