by Jim Garrett
Our CUAs of the Month come from around the world and further the UX cause in their home countries. This month, our CUA of the Month, Morteza Bahiraee, champions UX in Iran. He has worked as Senior Software Manager and Banking Business Analyst at Pardazeshgaran for the past four years. Morteza leads the charge of bringing UX to his company.
You have been a programmer. What is your role there now?
I've been a software programmer, but in the last two years have brought more to the analysis and design of software with an eye on strengthening my UX concepts in the field of products. I am currently responsible for Production Manager Software and design analysis together. I currently manage a team of eight players that are involved with creating web-based banking software. I am more in the design of software for integration between software components. I also have a special interest in business analysis for software requirements. As Saman Bank is our major client, my focus is on providing banking solutions.
What are banking solutions?
Banking software solutions, which are said to be useful in the context of banking services, are made available to banking customers for mobile banking and money transfer services plus services based on banking transactions. In addition to these services, software design and production affect the customer relationship with the bank. The club customers’ software allows customers to earn more points through the use of electronic banking services. This enhances customer loyalty to the bank.
Can you talk about some of your UX projects?
We lacked a standard framework for software development in the layer, and so we had to implement our per-project presentation layer again. This method had two big issues. First, there was the cost of the projects and second, we had to change all the projects one by one. These problems were solved by creating a standard framework that can be changed by changing a parameter of all projects at the same time.
For example, for choosing a date, we used a simple calendar control which was easy to use. After interviewing end users, we found that we did not need a complex calendar user control to perform the function of picking a birth date. Instead using a simple textbox control provided better efficiency.
In this project it was imperative to have a holistic and comprehensive view of the requirements of Saman Bank and sometimes integrating this holistic approach with branding of the company proved to be challenging. To fulfill these demands, during the analysis phase, we carefully studied the requirements of the client, as well as examining different tools and technologies for three month until we reached a satisfactory design for the product. Implementing the product took another six months using two developers. Managing these projects has helped prove I am a person who can deliver client-layer projects and as a result similar projects are usually assigned to me in our company.
We had designed a UI framework called Black Rose before I passed the CUA course. Since passing the course, I have tried to apply the CUA in the Black Rose and all the relevant projects which had used Black Rose. Recently, our company has developed an organizational unit called User and Business Analysis and all of the projects are first reviewed by this unit.
How is the field of UX developing in Iran?
The issue of User Experience is important for our company and it has been ordered to us as a mission, but to fulfill this mission we still have a long way to go. Unfortunately, the concept of UX is mostly ignored in Iran and I might say that there are very few companies that truly value the topic. Fortunately, Pardazeshgaran Company, with support of Saman Bank, is investing in this field and hopefully we will be a good role model for other Iranian software companies. In fact, I believe that Iran has started to progress and I hope will soon give UX its proper attention.
What aspects of usability do you enjoy the most?
I enjoy seeing the user having a satisfactory experience from the changes we make. When the user is comfortable and has a good feeling about using our software, in addition to word of mouth marketing, the user will develop a resistance to moving to competitor’s products even if those other products are considered robust.
In my experience, applying the principles of UX to software development can also be a cost saving strategy as we gain a better understanding of customer’s real needs. Then we can deliver a product that is a good fit and we will not spend much time and money on correcting and improving the software in later versions.
The major problem is the client is usually in a hurry to have a functional system. It is difficult to convince them to spend a longer time to extract the real requirements during the analysis phase. We found that when the client understands the value added, they will have no problem waiting a bit more. We do that in two major ways. Firstly, by clearly explaining the philosophy of UX and its advantages, and secondly by delivering a few functionalities to the client early on in the project and letting them get a first-hand experience of the improvements they gain when using this method.
In today’s software development market there is no shortage of people with technical capabilities but technical capabilities is not enough. You just cannot afford to ignore the concept of UX if you aspire to truly stand out in the business. This is what all big players do and sooner or later you’ll have to do it too.
After four years of trying, I was able to establish the UX organizational unit in Pardazeshgaran. Of course, the unit still has lots of room for improvement and I hope I can benefit from cooperating with HFI to speed up this process. Currently, no software will be delivered to clients without approval from this unit. This unit is responsible for creating a prototype of product based on extracting needs and requirements of the customer, business analysis, and the relationship between this product and other products that were previously delivered to the customer. After approval by the UX unit, the prototype is given to the production team. After completion of product development phase, the UX and the QC teams will verify that the product corresponds to the prototype and the product will be approved for delivery to the customer.
I consider myself to be a pioneer of UX in Pardazeshgaran; however, I do not consider myself the pioneer in Iran and there are others who have made real efforts in this field as well.
How has taking the CUA affected your work?
I really enjoyed my experience with HFI. First of all, the lecturers were people who were at the top of their game and they did not hesitate to share their knowledge and experience with us. In addition, because there was no company with really great reputation in our country, I had to travel to Dubai to attend the HFI classes. The whole process of registration, attending the classes and acquiring the certificate from overseas, was made easy for me by the helpful and friendly staff at HFI. I definitely recommend their courses to anybody interested in the topic.
I have always attempted to promote a customer oriented culture in our company. Besides respecting client needs, we were able to deliver products which have easier use. By participating in this course, I gained a more fundamental understanding of key issues of user experience topics. In addition, I was able to develop good relationships with other participants and we shared our knowledge and experience.
An important insight I learned from this course was that it is not enough to provide lots of functionalities and features to clients, which can backfire by confusing the users. Instead, product features should be grouped and even sometimes merged together so that users can get what they want more comfortably.
To give a good example, I can tell you about a web application we had developed called “Saman Bank Recruitment System” in which the user had to fill about a hundred fields to be able to submit a single form. After several polls and interviews and analysis sessions, we were able to design a much easier user experience by leaving out some unnecessary fields and by dividing the rest of the fields between two forms. Job applicants would fill out the first form and if they were accepted after the first step, they would complete the second form.
What is your passion in this, what drives you?
Firstly, long-term satisfaction of customers is invaluable to me. In addition, I am an ambitious person and I always strive to be the best and I realize that I cannot achieve that without a customer oriented mindset.
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