User experience in a back-office application

I can’t ever seem to explain what ‘user experience‘ is, leave alone make the case that it is important.  I say ‘user experience‘ and people hear ‘user interface‘.

User experience in an in-house, back-office application

Let’s try this.

Imagine I am speaking to a bean counter type middle manager in some sclerotic insurance company. I say this to him.

You make sure that the user knows the business.

I will build a system that a user can run the business with.

The user will not require training to use the system.

The system is not the business.

The system is a transparent tool that anyone with business knowledge will simply ‘get’.

The system will ensure that the user executes the business correctly, and efficiently.

New Enrollment into a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan

Consider new enrollment into a Medicare Part D plan (Prescription Drug Plan).  The insurance processor must know the business, described below.

  • A person comes to us, asking to enroll in a prescription drug plan.
  • In response we send a query to CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) to confirm that the applicant is eligible for the benefits she is asking for.  In industry jargon, this is the BEQ (Batch Eligibility Query).
  • If CMS finds that the applicant is eligible, we complete the application, and formally notify CMS that the person has enrolled into a Medicare Prescription Drug Plan.   This happens through the MARx Batch Input Transaction File, which we send to CMS every day.
  • Then we wait for CMS to tell us that it has accepted this person’s enrollment.  This is through the Transaction Reply Report (aka TRR), which CMS sends us daily.
  • Now, the member is completely enrolled.

Say we build a software system that allows the processor to execute the above workflow.   In addition, say we promise that the processor can simply be put in front of the system, and she will be able figure out how to perform the business without any further training from us.

More than ‘user interface’

If we can build such a system, we will have mastered user experience.

Think about what it takes to accomplish that.

Clearly we are talking about more than proficiency in HTML and Javascript.  At the very least, we the engineers, have to know the business, and we have to know the business users.