CUA of the Month – July, 2011

Ravi Singh
"You've heard people write off system design issues to end-user error or lack of training, but I don't buy it. As an experience design manager, I feel that my UX team is responsible for making customers more successful in their interactions with our products."
 
Ravi Singh
Senior Manager of User Experience
Waste Management, Inc.

Applying Human Factors to Solve Business and Customer Problems

by Sheldon Kreger

Usability analysis can present many unique and diverse challenges. When a UX team is presented with many simultaneous and diverse projects, things can become even more complex. Just ask Ravi Singh, Senior Manager of User Experience at Waste Management.

"The primary challenge we face as a team is the breadth of work we are involved in. We have to be able to change gears quickly, and apply our skills effectively to achieve the goals of each request or project."

Ravi conceptualizes his team's work into five categories:

  • User Research
  • Information Architecture
  • Branding and Visual Design
  • Content Strategy and SEO
  • Web Analytics

Each area has its own skillset and expertise, but they're all needed to build an excellent user experience.

"We work on many types of internal applications – from HR systems, to on-board computing applications, employee intranet, and business intelligence dashboards -- as well as our dozens of customer-focused websites. We are responsible for making sure they are easy to use and professionally designed to maintain consistent branding and credibility."

One might naturally assume that Waste Management utilizes a large UX team to handle so many projects. However, Ravi's team includes only seven members.

"It's very important that every member of our team speaks the same language and is drawing from the same knowledge base. This means less time debating esoteric principles of human factors and more time applying them to solve business and customer problems."

Ravi argues that HFI's courses and certification programs have been a key component of his team's success. "Right now, four members of our UX team are working toward their CUA certification. The skills and knowledge they develop through the training is immediately practical."

Ravi became interested in usability early in his career as a web designer.

"At first, I had a hard time judging the effectiveness of my designs. However, I soon learned that there were many methods and tools to assess the quality of my work. The most valuable feedback comes from talking directly to the people who use the sites and applications I design. But satisfaction surveys, site analytics and user-centered design techniques have a lot of complementary value."

"What I learned over time is that my personal satisfaction from designing a good interaction based on business requirements can all be undermined if end-users don't like or use the product you developed. Ensuring that experiences are easy and satisfying for people is more interesting to me than relishing in a clever design that serves no one well." It is critical to keep your eye on serving end users if you want to drive business value..."

Usability work is important not only because it can save companies time and resources, but because it has a very concrete impact on the lives of the people who depend on software in their own work.

"There are a lot of people who blame themselves when they have difficulty doing something on-line or with a computer. Most of our parents or grandparents are like that. You've heard people write off system design issues to end-user error or lack of training, but I don't buy it. As an experience design manager, I feel that my UX team is responsible for making customers more successful in their interactions with our products. It clearly contributes to the bottom line of our company, because people are able to find critical information, purchase products more easily, transact with us online effortlessly, and so on. So we are serving the business by serving the customer – everybody wins."

Finally, Ravi is very thankful for strong executive championship within Waste Management. Strong support for the work of his team helps them get involved with projects early on.

"Our CIO, Puneet Bhasin, prioritized the need for a UX team when he joined Waste Management as part of his vision for a more effective IT organization. He brought me on to establish the team, but I give him the most credit for recognizing the value of good design in information technology. I've never experienced a more enlightened and knowledgeable executive champion of user experience in my past career, whether in IT, Marketing or Customer Service. In fact, selling the value of user experience was a big part of my job before. Now, we're inundated with work but it is a great opportunity to provide transformational value for customers and the business."

CUA of the Month

Each month we highlight the successes and achievements of a different member of our CUA community. If you are a Certified Usability Analyst and would like to be considered for CUA of the Month recognition, please send a brief professional bio to hfi@humanfactors.com

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Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

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Reviewed: 18 Mar 2014

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$100 processing fee if cancelling within two weeks of course start date.

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