The Human Factor: The Emerging User Experience Discipline

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 af liated 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 de ned by the quality of the user/customer experience in addition to the capabilities of the core technology.

For the full article, you can view the PDF or listen to the podcast.

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