There are at least two types of managers in an enterprise, right?
I think of them as ‘business managers‘ and ‘systems managers‘.
How are they different, in so far as user experience is concerned?
Business Architecture vs. System Architecture
We can approach this question using the same yardstick that I used in an earlier post, ‘User experience for business employees‘. Business managers are expected to know the business, and not necessarily any one enterprise computer system that helps run the business. A business manager should be able to move between companies that are in the same business, but may use different enterprise systems. Within the same company, the enterprise systems may change as technologies evolve, but the business might stay largely the same. Changing enterprise systems ought not to be the business manager’s concern, bread or butter. So who is responsible for the enterprise system, which helps run the business. Enter, the systems manager.
The business manager knows the goals of the business. She is familiar with the various functions, capabilities and resources that collaborate to achieve the goals of the business. Does that definition sound vaguely familiar? It should, because that is the general definition of an architecture. A business manager is cognizant of the business architecture. A business architecture is separate from, and independent of what we could call the system architecture – individual computer based systems each with its own capabilities and responsibilities, interacting in well defined ways to implement the business architecture (aka the goals of the business).
For instance, a simplistic insurance company may be organized around these components – sales, underwriting, billing, and claims. A business manager knows the responsibilities of each of these business components, and how these components collaborate with each other to produce outcomes that the insurance company wants.
However, the billing department might run its business on the backs of four different computer systems – a billing app that manages transactional billing data, a document management system that manages documents coming out of the billing app (bills, delinquency notices, etc.), a high volume print manager, and a messaging system that helps the billing department collaborate with the other business components – claims, and underwriting, and sales. This is the system architecture that implements the billing component. The billing manager’s focus stays with the business component as a whole, while some IT manager must know and keep control over the computer systems that help run billing.
User experience for a business manager
Truth be told, what a business manager requires will change from business to business. I have little knowledge of any business, so there is specificity that I am not going to be able to provide.
However, thinking about this at a general architectural level, and applying anecdotal experience gained from working in a few enterprises, I believe we can come up with a list of what a business manager might find useful.
See the work flowing through the business architecture
The business manager will need to be able to witness, and evaluate the business that is flowing through the business architecture. Two sorts of views will be useful.
- A snapshot of the state of things at a certain moment. Now, two hours ago, closing time yesterday, etc. This should allow creation of a real time tracker of the business. Any hotspots, bottlenecks?
- Aggregate data. The business that was done in some duration – all day today, the week so far, in the last 6 months, etc.
Similar questions will need to be answered for parts of the architecture. Say just one component, like claims in an insurance company.
- Snapshot. How many claims does each claims adjuster have outstanding at the moment? What is each claims rep doing – in the office, out in the field, etc.
- Aggregate data. How many claims were paid, and how many rejected in the last 15 days? How much money was paid out and by whom yesterday? etc.
The information described above must be available in two forms.
- Old fashioned kind – reports, tables, graphs and charts.
- New fangled graphical business data visualization techniques.
The manager must be able to setup alerts, and notifications, on arbitrary events of interest. These alerts should be available on devices, and social platforms of the manager’s choice.
User experience for an IT manager
The user experience requirements for the business manager apply to IT managers as well, with one difference. The IT manager wants information on how the system architecture is performing.
Consider the example of the billing component described earlier. While the business manager is interested in how the billing component as a whole is performing, the IT manager will want to keep track of how things are going with the four computer systems that run billing – the billing app, the document management system, the print manager, and the messaging system.
- A realtime visual representation of the work running through the billing workflow. This must include the number of and the type of various billing transactions, the documents going to the document management system, what the print queues are doing, etc. This will show me hot spots.
- How many of the Missouri auto policy billings were finished today?
- How much did we pay out as agents’ commissions last month?
- Map delinquencies by region, but I don’t want a spreadsheet. I want it represented in shades of color on a physical map of the country.
- And so on.
How to get there
As with any user experience problem, you have to start with accurate knowledge of the business. In any environment, we have to know the business architecture well, in order to satisfy business managers’ requirements.
Reporting requirements for system architecture demand that each computer system in the architecture must expose snapshot, and aggregate descriptions of the work that is going through the system.
Finally, we are going to have to pick up expertise in data visualization beyond filling spreadsheets. There seem to be many tools out there for the client, which can be supported in the backend by either the JVM, or node.js.