I wish I had a dollar for every time my dad told me to “Stop touching that before you break it!”. As a kid growing up in New Jersey, I wanted to understand how things worked and couldn’t resist touching everything, everywhere. I spent a lot of time observing things around me and still do. And I asked a lot of questions. I was fascinated by how things worked and how people interacted with them. I didn’t think of it as “end-to-end user experience” back then, but now I can see that’s exactly what I was trying to understand.
Despite me driving him crazy, my Dad encouraged me to question everything–in a good way. To him, there was no bad question. And my Mom assured me it can never hurt to ask because the worst that can happen is someone can say no. That combination of not being afraid to ask questions plus wanting to understand how things work fueled my curiosity, and still does. I want to know how the pieces of an experience come together and why people make certain choices.
Everywhere I look I am thinking about this. What works? What doesn’t? How will someone who has never seen this react?
I look for great experiences all the time, not just in technology. A recent example of a delightful experience I had was at my eye doctor’s office. As soon as I walked in the door, I could tell they had thought about every aspect of the patient experience. They had reduced the initial duplicate paperwork with a digital form, and the entire office was laid out in such a logical way that it was a smooth transition from station to station. Every detail was considered, from the welcoming coffee and tea station to how the exam rooms flowed. Because of the built-in efficiency, the doctor was on time and had more time available to talk to me. As a new patient I found myself impressed with how well thought out their entire process was.
In technology, most people have expectations built on the experience they have with their personal devices–from mobile phones to digital assistants. Users have become accustomed to devices that just work and often delight them in their simplicity and usefulness.
But when is the last time you heard of someone being delighted with their enterprise tools? This is my dream for our employees. And this is our vision–to deliver intuitive and connected experiences that are easily discoverable on any device, virally adopted, require little training, respect and anticipate personal preferences, surface information in context, and offload routine task completion to digital assistants. Making this happen for our own employees will develop a more productive, collaborative, and creative working environment.
In the coming years there are a few key areas at Microsoft we are investing in to make that possible, from frictionless devices, to intelligent meetings, a digital workday assistant, our digital workspace, and an empowered employee journey. We are at an amazing juncture where technology has caught up with our aspirations, because this vision isn’t necessarily new. This is a culmination of collaboration across Microsoft–from R&D to Core Services Engineering to product groups. As a company, we envisioned many of these scenarios decades ago, but the technology didn’t exist, and everything wasn’t connected as it is today.
Now that it does exist, we can put together the pieces in a way that is intuitive and makes our employees more engaged and productive. We will make everyday work life better for our own employees and showcase what can be done for our customers.
To get there, it will be important for us to solicit feedback along the way–and ask a lot of questions. I do this constantly. For example, my team built the lobby experience application. Every time I go into a new building, I ask the receptionist how it’s working and seek their feedback. These simple, 60-second discussions have proven invaluable for me to better understand our employees’ needs and demonstrate the power of feedback and learning to enhance their employee experiences.
I guess I’m still “touching everything!”, as my dad would say.
Here are some questions for you. Everybody notices when something doesn’t work, but do you also notice when something works well? Can you remember the last time you had a delightful user experience? What made an impression on you? By observing, and thinking about these things in our everyday lives, we can put ourselves in our customers’ shoes and create end-to-end experiences that will delight them. And delighting our customers is a top priority–especially when those customers are our own employees.