Rarely do users have the luxury of working with a single platform – and the fact is that our tools are getting more and more complex. Even within the Microsoft ecosystem, there are productivity tools that overlap. But that’s ok — because different people work in different ways, and having the ability to accomplish some tasks through different tools makes sense when you look at your collaboration activities through the perspective of discrete user experience (UX) requirements. At the end of the day, we want our end users to be productive.
We all have an idea about what productivity means, and whether or not organizations get the most out of their employees. The problem with improving productivity is that its much more than simply adding another tool. It sometimes involves a complete re-thinking of the user experience: the tools, the conversations and sharing that happens between tools, the life cycle of a project, and the governance of all of these moving parts. It’s not about giving people more, but more of the “right” features. In some ways, productivity is about reducing friction, allowing employees to focus on solving problems rather than getting bogged down in the underlying technology. Ultimately, focusing on the UX is about giving your end users the right features to be productive. The more you can align your tools and applications with the way that your people work, the greater the level of adoption and, ultimately, the biggest impact you will have to productivity.
In my latest interview with KanBo CEO Michal Sobotkiewicz (@michalsobot), we explore this idea of focusing more on the UX and what is necessary for employees to be successful, and less on the deployment methodology or the underlying platforms and services. These things are important, obviously, but for most end users who only want to get their work done, they’re irrelevant.
Microsoft’s Shift Toward the UX
In the fall of 2015, I was able to chat with Microsoft CVP Jeff Teper just before the public announcement that he was returning to the helm of the SharePoint team. Jeff wanted to connect with a number of MVPs and influencers in the community to get some feedback on where we thought his priorities should be focused, and to share some details on what was on the road map. At the heart of that entire conversation was making the end user experience better at every level. And looking back at what has transpired over the past 2.5 years, you can see the tremendous progress the company has made with Modern Team Sites and beyond.
While Jeff attended the European SharePoint Conference that November and shared some details on what the SharePoint product team was planning for the spring, most announcements were held until the the May 4th, 2016 virtual event held in San Francisco. Many of the most exciting feature updates (in my opinion) were focused on improvements to the UX, and winning over the hearts of end users, admins, and developers-alike. End users want their UX to be an easy-to-understand, and well-integrated experience across all of their day-to-day tools use. It’s certainly true that the stronger the points of integration with the tools people use the most — like Microsoft Office — the more “sticky” SharePoint becomes.
Some of my favorite UX improvements over the last couple years have been small-but-important feature enhancements and integrations, such as the inclusion of Skype and OneNote to Outlook meeting invites, allowing you to very easily make any meeting invite an online meeting invite, as well as include a centralized location for all participants to share notes. I also love the ability to take OneNote lists and convert them to Outlook tasks or event reminders.These additions are HUGE productivity enhancements for those of us who live inside of Office every day, with a minimum of 4 or 5 online meetings per day.
Another example of Microsoft shifting their focus toward UX has been the deeper integration with OneDrive for Business, which is now a default storage destination for Windows, with every applications running on Windows, and how we can drag and drop between local and cloud, individual and shared, no matter where we are working. But it’s also in the look-and-feel of OneDrive, and having a consistent UX with SharePoint lists and libraries. SharePoint and OneDrive not only look like they belong in the same technology family, but Microsoft continues to listen to customer feedback and is constantly adding and refining features that make Office 365 and Microsoft Office a cohesive productivity platform.
KanBo’s Focus on UX
Regardless of your system goals — intranet, extranet, project management portal, document collaboration system, or knowledgebase — if you are building an environment where you want your end users to make themselves at home, stay a while, and be productive, you’ll need to consider the UX. If you spend too much time focusing on the technology and not enough time understanding how to deliver these UX components, you’ll find success elusive. Which is why KanBo is also constantly reviewing and refining their UX, ensuring that the solution is intuitive and easy-to-use at every level.
In the most recent KanBo release (see KanBo 2.6 Release Notes), the team added a number of new features that greatly improve how users navigate their various boards, cards, and tasks — and allowing them to personalize their experience. Recognizing the rapid adoption of Microsoft Teams, KanBo now also has a bot and connector, allowing for even tighter alignment with the ways in which end users are consuming information and collaborating through Teams and SharePoint.