IT Service Portals and Human-Centered Design

If you are working within an IT Service Management team, you have probably sat in many meetings where you are discussing how can we drive self-service portal adoption?  You may have put up posters, sent out emails, tracked usage, redirected inbound service requests – and yet, you are not there – but why? Some teams are looking deeper and incorporating human-centered design to help drive IT Service Portal adoption.

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving that focuses on users’ needs and requirements by researching and observing how people use certain services; and identifying how their experience can be improved.

In human-centered design, it’s important to drop any preconceived notions you might have about users and their needs. Instead, you learn about users’ needs and challenges by observing and talking with them. Rather than having a specific outcome in mind, the human-centered design calls for keeping your mind open to a variety of possible solutions. This approach is one may organizations use when implementing self-service portals as part of their IT Service Management (ITSM) and Enterprise Service Management (ESM) strategies.

Design Principals

Human-centered design is based a few fundamental principles that are applicable to the implementation of an IT service portal within an organization. They are as follows:

  • Users are involved in the design process from the very beginning.Critical design decisions are evaluated based on how they work for end-users.
  • Importance of requirement clarification.The team always tries to align business requirements with user’s needs.
  • Introducing user feedback loop in the product life cycle.The team collects and analyzes feedback from users regularly. This information helps the team to make more user-focused decisions.
  • Iterative design process.The team constantly works on improving user experience; it introduces changes gradually as it gains more understanding about their target audience.

Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem solving that focuses on users’ needs and requirements by researching and observing how people use certain services; and identifying how their experience can be improved.

The Three Phases of Human-Centered Design

Once you understand the principles, you can start the design process. To do this, you should follow the three phases that make up human-centered design:

  1. The Inspiration Phase – Here, the goal is to learn directly from the people you are designing for by immersing yourself in their departments and gaining a deep understanding of their needs.
  2. The Ideation Phase – In this phase, you take what you learned, identify the opportunities for design and come up with possible solutions.
  3. The Implementation Phase – In the final phase, you bring your solution to life. Once your platform is in place, you can measure its success based on how people are using the tool.

Human-Centered Design in Action

At Grand Rapids Community College Kelley Webber, a support desk coordinator, saw the value in implementing a human-centered design approach to the college’s ITSM strategy. Establishing an IT service portal was supposed to make life easier for tech support staff because they wouldn’t have to spend as much time on the phone trying to understand the nature of users’ issues. However, Webber and her team found that fewer than 5 percent of support tickets were being initiated through the service portal, while 60 percent still originated through phone calls. They set out to redesign the service portal and service catalog to make it more user-centric so that more stakeholders would engage with it. 

Employ a Focus Group

To do this, they shook up the format of the focus groups. “We had users sit down at a computer, and we watched them interact with our IT service catalog to see their reactions,” Webber says. “We realized many users didn’t understand the verbiage or icons we were using.” 

For instance, the service portal had a category for “Telephony Services,” but most students didn’t understand this term. “They thought it was a made-up word,” Webber says. The newly redesigned portal will use the service catalog category “Campus Phones and Conferencing Services” instead. 

Using User Focused Vernacular

What’s more, end-users didn’t know they should choose the service category “Software Requests” if they had a problem with their mobile campus app, because they didn’t realize apps and software were the same thing. “We had an old-school mentality that it was all just software,” Webber says. The redesigned portal will change the name of this service category to “Apps and Software” to make this clearer to users. 

But the biggest lesson to come out of the focus groups was a reminder of why it’s important not to make assumptions. Webber and her team thought that simply redesigning the service portal would lead to greater use — yet they learned many students weren’t aware of its existence. “We never stopped to think whether students even knew how to get to it,” she acknowledges.

To read more about Grand Rapids Community College’s experience, check out: Human-Centered Design Helps Grand Rapids Community College Engage with IT Users More Effectively.

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