The EFMD business magazine

The EFMD business magazine

The human factor: The emerging user experience discipline

user experience
William M. Gribbons explains why, increasingly, leading organisations demand a balance of the user perspective with the traditional focus on technology, and how business schools can fulfil this need.

Thirteen years ago, a group at Bentley University recognised an opportunity to reconsider the relevance of human- technology interaction – the discipline known as ‘Human Factors’ in business education. We saw technology slowly becoming a commodity rather than a point of difference, and we sensed a growing dissatisfaction with the return on investment for information technology and its unexpectedly high life-cycle costs. We recognised a contributing factor to these conditions was the traditional narrow focus on the technology itself, and the development community’s failure to properly consider the needs and abilities of the end user or customer.

What emerged from this analysis was the need for a new and comprehensive strategy focused on the user experience, independent of whether this strategy is applied to an internally facing IT system or to a product that competes in the open market.

Traditionally, ‘human factors’ graduate programmes were most often affiliated with schools of engineering or possibly psychology. the programme at Bentley is one of the largest in the world, and we chose to locate it in our school of business.

The reasons behind this thinking, and the implications for the business community, are two-fold:

1. In the development and implementation of information technology; business, regulatory, and technical requirements must now be balanced with the needs and abilities of the end user (the human factor).

2. For producers of commercial technology products or technology-enabled services, competition is increasingly defined by the quality of the user/customer experience in addition to the capabilities of the core technology.

The rules of the technology marketplace have changed, and business schools must adapt accordingly. although today’s business organisation is increasingly built on the back of complex It infrastructures, business schools often question the role of information technology in the curriculum. We believe it is highly relevant in the business education curriculum. however, business schools must complement our traditional focus on the strategic, technical, and management aspects of It with a significantly closer consideration of the user of this technology – human Factors. the human factor is a consideration in product management components of MBA programmes, as well as in new technology product development and marketing courses. a narrow focus on technology’s engineering and functionality is no longer adequate in today’s marketplace.

For the full article, you can view the PDF.

The human factor: The emerging user experience discipline

See more articles from Vol.06 Issue 01 – ’12.

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