Business agendas hinder user-centred design

Business agendas often override the IT manager's ability to favour user preferences when designing a new project, according to Karl Davies, professional services director of interactive agency Different.

A strong advocate of user-centred design, Davies staged a "human-centred design revolution workshop" in Sydney this week.

In theory, he said, user-centred design is a good idea but in practice it often falls apart because of competing interests with business.

One of the biggest issues, Davies believes, is trying to please those that provided the money for the IT project, while also keeping users in mind.

"When a stakeholder comes up with money, they expect you to do what they want, but the key is to broker a trade-off and find a middle ground," Davies said.

"You should seek to get informed trade-offs with your stakeholder, rather than purity in your project.

"This also means maintaining close contact with the business because their needs will change throughout the project."

Changing project needs is something the Internet and intranet manager at BHP Billiton, Lu Jianzhong, knows all about.

Jianzhong embarked on a global intranet strategy in 2001, and had to pursue the project through the merger and subsequent confusion of BHP and Billiton.

"The project happened in a very complicated and dynamic environment; we had to think about how this intranet could become something sustainable while juggling the restructure in 2001," Jianzhong said, adding that a philosophical view was required.

"Issues and impurities are the reality of achieving strategic user-centered design projects; things will go wrong.

"It is also important to remember that stakeholders are not the enemy of user-centered design."

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