The Inforum conference analyst update, for their design group, Hook & Loop, by Infor’s President, Duncan Angove carried a provoking message. In his keynote address to the analysts regarding design, he began by discussing “Creating Experiences People Love,” a noble goal for software, and what I would have anticipated from a design group update. His message then turned more surprising, and somewhat offensive, as he discussed the need to “End the Tyranny of the Super User.” Speaking as a former practitioner, it is the “super users” that often make things work in spite of the software shortcomings, so it hit me as strange that his speech seemed to denounce the very people that often make software work.
In fact, the Hook & Loop group was actually doing the complete opposite, and instead was paying homage to “super users.” As Duncan further explained, the challenge that their customers often face is “what happens when the “super user” leaves?” and “who is left to fill their shoes and how do we capture that knowledge?” Their goal is to tackle this problem in its entirety. They are doing this by understanding the business problem that the super user is trying to deal with, and capturing the thought process that they employ to manage/solve it. From the design perspective, the idea is to present the required options/critical data at the user’s fingertips, so they can avoid digging through too many screens to get there. In essence, Hook &Loop’s belief is that software should make the necessary available quickly and suppress other elements that might distract the user. This got my attention.
In fact, that question of “what happens when the super user leaves?” is one that Aberdeen’s research indicates is a huge issue for companies, particularly as the baby boomers retire and the talent shortage for engineers and technical resources continues to grow. On average, 30% of organizations have difficulty hiring the required positions due to shortages. Further, Best-in-Class companies indicate that 72% of new employees have a lack of practical experience and 42% display a lack of business maturity necessary to perform the job.
The cause is a noble one and perhaps Hook & Loop can provide leadership for capturing knowledge and experience that can at least offset some of the learning curve, when new and uninformed employees join the ranks of a company. Another benefit is that it may make the super users themselves much more productive and serve as an enabler to new and better business results. In either case, if Hook & Loop can improve on the existing state of the super user’s business challenge, then it’s a definite plus in the software development world.
Perhaps, however, we can consider it “documenting the tyrants” than the more heavy handed, “ending the tyranny of the super user.” Documenting the super users will not only lessen organizations’ dependence on them, but it will also assist in the knowledge transfer to, ultimately, create more “super users,” or perhaps just average users, with super software that bestows on them super powers. I applaud the direction and wish them success.