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Transforming & Measuring: An Interview with Gerry McGovern

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Transcript

Gerry Gaffney:

This is Gerry Gaffney with the User Experience podcast. Today’s guest was previously on UXpod back in 2009. He’s an early advocate of customer centric thinking on the web. He’s worked with clients including Cisco, IBM and Microsoft and with numerous governments, including those of the USA, UK, Holland, Canada, Norway and Ireland.

He’s written no fewer than six books on digital transformation and related areas. His latest is Transform: A rebel’s guide for digital transformation.

Gerry McGovern, welcome again to the User Experience podcast.

Gerry McGovern:

And thanks very much, Gerry, for having me.

Gerry Gaffney:

Tell me, why a “rebel’s” guide?

Gerry McGovern:

Well, over the years I noticed that whenever I’d come across really customer champions or people who were really pushing to create better experiences for customers within organisations nine times out of ten those people would either have reached a ceiling in their career, have been at least somewhat isolated or in general been seen as kind of troublemakers within their organisations, because they were constantly going back to the programmers saying “Simplify,” you know, “Re-do this”, going back to the graphic designers or the content writers saying “You’ve got to simplify this content to, you’ve got to make it better.” And in essence they were seen as you know “Why don’t you just put this stuff up, why are you questioning all this for?”

Because basically well it’s the way the organisation is constructed but there’s that sense of the person who’s saving the organisation is disliked in this sense and that they are a rebel in a dangerous position as they try and transition these old model organisations to a newer model, customer centric world.

Gerry Gaffney:

And in fact you advise people who are not getting any traction within their organisations to jump ship and move on.

Gerry McGovern:

Well that, it’s certainly an option but it’s not an option obviously for everyone, it’s easy to say, hard to do for a lot of people. And certainly it’s worth considering if you’ve really you know worked through all the angles that you can work through and you really feel that your organisation is just giving you zero support and is unlikely to give you support.

Now I’d say there are a number of steps before you do that and one of them would definitely be to see are there other rebels. One of the core things I think today is we need to connect outside of our peer group. I’ve often seen content writers sitting around moaning that nobody takes content seriously or you know usability people sitting around doing the same type of thing, you know, reinforcing attitudes within their own groups or disciplines. But it’s often we don’t communicate properly outside our disciplines, it’s sometimes, not always but sometimes, but I think even reaching out to these other departments or divisions and seeing, are there other rebels over there? Because when you get a bunch of people together that is nearly always more powerful than just yourself. What you’ll probably find is that there’s a lot more, particularly if you work at a large organisation, is there’s a lot more people like you and then if you find there isn’t a lot more people like you then you need to look at your career. Are you going to get stuck in this old model organisation that’s hierarchical and focused on telling people, you know, what it wants them to hear or are you going to move to where you can flourish in your career.

Gerry Gaffney:

It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it, that people who work in UX and usability and technical communication and communication roles often communicate so poorly. I’ve had clients say to me “Oh you know we had these UX people come in and they didn’t talk our language” or “We had these people come in and they didn’t talk our language.” It’s funny how we can, as people in those professions, how we can fail to communicate with our clients.

Gerry McGovern:

You’ve obviously seen that yourself and it’s very common, Gerry, you know it’s the cobbler’s children, isn’t it? Our customers in a way are the senior, if we’re the usability or the customer experience or the content people or whatever, our customers are, you know, the managers.

I remember many years ago, I was in New Zealand giving a series of workshops and it was quite unusual, it didn’t happen very often but in the afternoon a whole bunch of managers came into the room just to listen in on the discussions that were going on. And as the afternoon wore on people became more and more open about their challenges and their problems. And at some stage near the end of the afternoon one of the managers said, “You know this is the first time I’ve heard any of this, you know, I’m not trying to be smart here or anything but this is the first time.” And she looked around at the other managers and they all agreed with her. And it was like we assume that they know and that they’re kind of deliberately doing it. And sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s true, but sometimes we haven’t communicated upwards enough in a practical way about these challenges.

So that’s an issue. But if we’re communicating upwards, not as an isolated individual, but from multiple sources within the organisation then that is more powerful. So the key, you know, get yourself together with the other rebels and start communicating in polite, factual ways upwards saying we’ve got a problem here, we’re suffering because we’re giving a bad experience to the customer.

Gerry Gaffney:

Hmm, maybe you should have called it “A polite rebel’s guide.”

Gerry McGovern:

Yes, yeah like I heard one of the best phrases is “polite persistence,” because you have to be careful here, you know, you’re potentially treading on toes, you’re undermining a kind of hierarchy, because if it’s customer centric, in a way it’s not management centric because the opposite is organisation and organisation is essentially management so management has to give way to some degree and that’s difficult for management to do, not to become the centre of things, kind of directing things and controlling things. That’s what they think their job is and of course a major element of their job is that but you know the shift is to a much flatter environment where the customer is at the centre.

Gerry Gaffney:

Indeed, yeah. You’re pretty damning about the current state of things though in the commercial world and also society in general, although you do say; “Give me the internet any day with all its chaos and overload to that old model world where somebody somewhere decided what was good for us based usually on what was good for them.” A kind of a bit of cynical world view mixed in with a degree of optimism, I suppose.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah, I think it’s interesting times, isn’t it? I mean, we see a lot of strange movements occurring around the world, the US elections and stuff like that. We see almost you know battles between two world views, authoritarian old, you know, and flatter… Although it’s not as simple as that either but I think we’ve got a real conflict going on as societal pillars began to wobble, whether they be churches or organisations or governments or… Our sense of belief in the system is seriously undermined everywhere.

I don’t know what it’s like in Australia, I know you’re keeping in touch with Ireland, it’s certainly, you know it’s wobbled here a lot but it’s still working in its own way but the sense of… you know, when I was growing up it was the priest, the teacher and the Garda, you know, the policeman, but these sorts of belief systems, we don’t believe in them nearly as much and maybe we haven’t replaced them properly with something yet but I think there’s a much greater sense of peer confidence among ourselves and our groups. But that can become a bit dangerous in that you’re just focused on your group or your peer group and you’re not reaching out beyond your peer group.

But I think generally it’s a very interesting and positive time. It certainly has the potential to be a very positive movement where, you know, we become much more evidence-based and much less hero-based and “great man” centric. I think that old “great man” concept has really worn out its welcome and replacing that with a much flatter, truly democratic type of system. I think the Web gives us that potential.

Gerry Gaffney:

It’s interesting, you’re talking about you know flatter and democratic systems, I don’t know if you’ve read Beth Simone Noveck’s book Smart Citizens, Smarter State, have you come across that?

Gerry McGovern:

No, I didn’t read that.

Gerry Gaffney:

It’s excellent. She talks about accessing citizen’s expertise within government and getting people far more involved in government, not just by, not just from a voting perspective but actually, you know, putting out decisions that are important and making sure that everyone who is interested and qualified to take part in the debate or the decision making process does so.

Gerry McGovern:

You know, that’s not easy either in the early days. I read a book on Brazilian politics there a while ago and the PT Workers Party, have a lot of challenges at the moment for issues of corruption and stuff like that but they did some very interesting things in some of the cities that they ran democratic budgetary processes, and initially there was only a couple of hundred people participating in the budgetary process but after about seven or eight years there was like 20,000 in a city of I don’t know half a million or a million or something like that.

So I mean these… I’ve absolutely no doubt that many brains are better than few for most problems. As Peter Drucker once said, “If the ship is sinking, you don’t call a meeting.” But most of the time the ship isn’t sinking, you know, it’s floating along, it’s wobbling a bit or whatever and you know if there’s a fire on board, OK you need rapid decision making but most problems are not emergencies. They’re much more practical and I think the collective intelligence is, when it’s properly challenged and properly structured, and the Web gives us these capacities, is far more adaptable and wiser than the idea that one person in such a complex age can really make decisions is a strange concept, you know, it’s so like primitive that, you know, one person, we have to depend on one person to make the decision. It’s really quite a ridiculous concept. I think we’ll look back at it over time, so I think moving towards… of course it’s messier, of course it’s more difficult but in this complex, messy world it gets the results.

Gerry Gaffney:

Talking about the messy world, you write in the book; “In the 2014 World Cup Portugal had Ronaldo, Argentina had Messi, Brazil had Neymar, Uruguay had Suarez, while Germany had a team.”

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah, and that’s what wins the game in a lot of cases. I mean we might watch the Hollywood movies, you know, but the Second World War wasn’t won by a couple of generals.

When you read about catching Osama Bin Laden and you watch the film you think, “Oh, you know that one woman, she caught Bin Laden, she kept going to everybody and saying, ‘you’ve got to catch him, you’ve got to catch him,’ or ‘Obama made the decision, he caught Bin Laden’ whereas it was thousands and thousands and thousands of people, analysts and etc, in any environment but we mythologise this individual so much and there’s such a sneering contempt for collaboration. Every two-bit commentator brings up about you know a committee, a horse, or a camel is a horse designed by a committee but it was a committee that landed that thing on that comet twenty million miles away.

It was committees that created the internet. Not saying that oh the committee is the ultimate answer but this sense of you know this John Wayne type thinking, the John Wayne designer or the John Wayne usability expert, it’s so old world in this day and age and I think the younger generations are recognising that, that, you know, collaboration is messy but particularly cross-functional collaboration. I think that’s the critical… it’s easy to collaborate with a bunch of content writers; it’s easy to collaborate with people who you already agree with. It’s the collaboration with people from other disciplines which is more difficult but is far more fruitful.

Gerry Gaffney:

Yeah collaboration can be very uncomfortable I think. You talk about content writers, I think there are a lot of people who are in those sorts of professions who tend to quite like being at the desk and having a, I mean and I don’t mean it as a negative thing but people have their own comfort zones, right, and getting out and talking to engineers or marketing people or god forbid end users can be quite uncomfortable.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah and I think you’ve put your finger on it there to a degree, Gerry, that certain people, certain historical professions attract a type of character, you know, a type of reclusive writer type or and it’s reclusive programmers as well, you know, I think that the profession that in a way make up the elements of IT and usability and those areas are often reclusive type people and of course it’s a challenge for them but you know… I just bought a new printer and it said something like “open the latch to print the page” and I’m looking at the back of the printer and spending ages trying to… where’s this latch? And I go on the, because it’s not mentioned in the guide, in the set-up guide, there’s no image of it, there’s no description of it and I go onto the Web and I search for it and I find this YouTube video and this woman says “I spent two hours, two hours trying to figure this out” and she says “it’s not at the back, it’s at the front,’ you know very counter intuitive but she explained where it was. But there was 40,000 people had watched this video. For a Canon printer. 40,000!

And what happens is the technical writers they do the best they can but they never actually watch the printer being used or rarely by an ordinary, and they don’t notice and they skip these things that they think are trivial or that they don’t even consider as an issue and that’s what I’ve often found that the biggest problems are the things that the designers think are such trivialities that nobody would even find an issue with them and these can be the critical stumbling blocks in a flow because you’re not watching people do it and the result of that is a really bad experience in the process.

You know, if one step fails, like I got everything right but I couldn’t print anything because I couldn’t figure out how to open the latch in the process so that’s the way you know, that sort of getting out there is so critical and you know the customer is the most essential person or persons in any collaborative team.

Gerry Gaffney:

Absolutely it’s quite amazing, I mean I know we’re sort of talking to the converted here but it’s amazing how often you’ll talk to a group of designers or developers or tech writers or whatever and you say how many of you actually get to spend time with your customers or citizens or whatever? And it’s almost invariably a minority.

Gerry McGovern:

Oh absolutely and in many organisations there’s rules against them doing it. They’re actually, they’re not allowed like you know in some government environments, and it started with reasonably good intent… In the US there was, Carter in the 70’s brought in a Paper Reduction Act and part of that was stop annoying citizens and that became “don’t talk to citizens” and then there were these rules against surveys and stuff and the same in Canada for slightly other reasons. And in other organisations, oh don’t talk to our customers because the sales reps are very possessive about their customer contact and so you know there’s cultures in organisations that even where you want to get in touch with the customers, the organisation blocks you from actually doing it. So we’ve got organisational challenges and we’ve got psychological challenges.

But there’s many, the newer organisations are breaking those down, whether it’s Slack or Google or otherwise, you know they are built around the customers and around constant observation of the customers.

Gerry Gaffney:

In the book one of the things that amused me was you’ve got a Google homepage if it had been designed by a traditional marketing-driven organisation, as you mentioned, and you’ve got here it says “Google” on the homepage and there’s a picture of Larry and Sergey Brin and you know Google News and new improved search, “Google is delighted to announce the new whatever” and a big welcome to our website thing and a feedback form and it’s very funny because it’s just it rings so true and it does show you I guess what an evidence-based organisation does which is to strip everything right back to what’s important to the customer and omit everything else.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah and I mean that’s the classic organisation centric because everybody on that site that you’ve just mentioned, all the powerful units or departments of the organisation got their space on the homepage, you know and that’s invariably what it is, it’s a political type of exercise many websites of, you know, allowing the powerful elements of the organisation their capacity to communicate at people. You know it doesn’t work or it’s working less and less effectively but they’ve done their job because they’ve communicated at, they’ve created content. They haven’t initiated communication but they’ve created the thing and that’s more important to them than the actual communication.

Gerry Gaffney:

Yeah you’ve very scathing about marketing you know in general, you talk about the amount of, and you’ve got a lot of references in the book, you talk about the amount of money that organisations spend to get new customers versus the amount of money they spend on retaining existing ones and it does seem to me you know not a sensible way to run a business.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah it’s a kind of, it’s a cultural thing as well. It’s a kind of, it’s a way… I suppose it’s like a marriage of sorts where you know before you get married you bring flowers and you promise and you know holidays in the sun and everything like that and after you get married you go out drinking with your pals [Laughter.] And you go chasing other you know skirt or whatever. That’s the way most organisations treat their customers and no wonder divorce rates are sky high and loyalty is massively in decline because a lot of organisations believe that people are suckers, they’re either too lazy, you know and once you’ve reeled them in as a customer then you gradually increase the price, you exploit them, you ignore them and then you promise everything to the new customer. And it has worked, it has worked for maybe 50, 60 years and there are certain sectors where it still does work, where you keep making a fool out of the customer but there’s only so many times you can make a fool out of people before they begin to cotton on to what you’re actually doing and that’s essentially what modern marketing is; promising everything to the potential customer and ignoring the actual current customer.

But that’s going to change. In the organisations that succeed today, whether they are Facebooks or Googles or Slacks or whatever, they care about their current customers because they know that it is the current customer that is the sales rep, you know, it is the current customer that is the marketer in this modern, flatter, social media world.

Gerry Gaffney:

Indeed, and you describe you know a new world where the customer or the citizen is the one that’s empowered and is in fact driving the marketing themselves and you certainly see it in the millennials, you know, people who have just got zero loyalty to brands which I think is fantastic.

Gerry McGovern:

Absolutely. [Laughs.} You know I remember reading an article in some… Irish Times or something like that fifteen or twenty years ago and there was this branding expert and he was saying something like, he was saying “You know, the Irish are very brand loyal” and it wasn’t a compliment.

It most definitely wasn’t a compliment. Brand loyalty is for suckers, you know the vast majority of situations you’re being played big time if you’re brand loyal. There are exceptions for sure but you know brand loyalty, only an idiot would be brand loyal or a child, in a process. Any sensible person would be sceptical and reasonable and go with the facts and go with the best offers and I think that’s a description of not just millennials today but the vast majority of people where we’ve got a, this blind trust is so corrosive as well of society because it encourages people to exploit you if you’re blindly loyal.

You can’t help but exploit an idiot in a way, if somebody you know will still keep giving you the money if you make the product inferior or no matter what you do to them. Whereas in a society where you’ve got a sceptical customer base, you’re going to have to be on your toes and do a better job and it leads just to a better environment for everyone.

Gerry Gaffney:

Gerry you had BP in the book as an exemplar of I guess how not to do marketing.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah I think you know in the 90’s BP were quite focused on you know new technologies and issues connected with climate change and renewable energies and stuff like that but then towards the end of the 90’s they began to divest significantly from those resources and at the very time their divestiture from renewable energy occurred they began a new branding campaign about, you know, green and all that and “Beyond Petroleum” so it was like you know that black is white or black is green, a kind of, and it worked for them for many years basically the clever PR, the clever marketing and advertising until of course the reality unfortunately has a way of intruding on marketing at a certain point in the process. And that kind of belief you know these PR people, these marketing people, that they can essentially invent truth and invent reality based on how they spin things. And sometimes that’s true and it has worked for a while but it’s less and less able to be done in this more sceptical world and when you can go online and check things out, you know you can verify much more.

So I think that old school of marketing and branding of manipulating the truths and creating this artificial sense of an experience that is has no real connection with the actual reality of the experience, that works for Coca Cola but it works for less and less other brands or areas.

Gerry Gaffney:

It must be very hard for organisations to lose control. I was talking to somebody from BP the other day and I mentioned Deepwater Horizon and they were sort of saying “Oh, yeah, not really our fault,” or something, I can’t remember what the story was.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah, yeah well you know whatever, the Horizon wasn’t the first one they were involved in. It was a history of cost cutting etc etc but anyway it was you know it was…

I mean when you think of it an oil company with a green logo and you know it’s so cynical, so deeply, deeply, deeply cynical, such a contempt for people but you know that’s traditional advertising and you know they were advertising cigarettes were good for your, cigarettes liberated or you know liberated women or dentists recommend that you smoke these cigarettes.

It’s the same school of thinking that, it just comes out of old propaganda, that you can manipulate public opinion. And it’s true, in certain areas you can manipulate people. But I just see the evidence that people are less manipulable than they were historically, not in every area, not every group of people but particularly the younger millennial generations that are better educated and poorer. That’s an interesting combination and they’ve less of a sense that the system is going to deliver them a future so they’re just more sceptical and cynical today.

Gerry Gaffney:

And I guess you have a lot of interesting trends going on like a decrease in ownership of material stuff and a decrease in car ownership and increase in purchasing experiences as opposed to physical products.

Gerry McGovern:

I think so and I think that you know, somebody said the car rates, that people were still buying but you know it’s an interesting statistic that 95% of the time a car spends is being parked, you know it’s extraordinary when you and when you get automatic driving now and stuff, you know, I can see loads of us not having cars, you know we just, we rent a car in a much more efficient way for a day or two days or whatever and then it drives itself back to wherever it goes back to; why would you want to own a car that you only use for 5% of the time?

Gerry Gaffney:

Indeed. Now to get into the nitty gritty a little bit, I guess. You’ve talked in the book and elsewhere about enumerating the top tasks using a questionnaire and then, you know, focusing your design efforts on that and it’s an apparently unwieldy process and methodology. I can attest that it works it because I’ve used them once or twice but can you describe it to us fairly briefly because I know you’ve talked about it elsewhere and you’ve written about it in your previous books as well.

Gerry McGovern:

Well the idea is to get a league table of importance because often the challenges that I’ve found in these design areas or management areas is that tiny tasks take up so much time and they’re highly political. So the low level tasks take up a lot of the time of the team and they clutter the environment. So the idea is to get a league table of importance from the most important to the least important in the process.

And what I found is that in any environment, whether it’s dealing with your health or buying a car or choosing a university, there’s somewhere between sixty and eighty tasks that really define that environment, that are the kind of the task ecosystem. So it’s a process of initially defining that task ecosystem and then literally we give the target audience, the customers, that entire list and ask them to quickly choose five from that list and that always delivers.

Let’s say if there’s a hundred in that list, then five will get the first 25% of the vote and the bottom fifty will get the final 25%. So five tasks will get as much of the vote as fifty and it gives you that kind of clarity of this is what really matters and this is what doesn’t matter and this is why we’re not focussing on these tiny tasks. And it is, it seems counter intuitive, perhaps unwieldy, but it’s worked, you know we’ve let three or four hundred thousand people vote on it over the last ten years or so but it basically gives you a league table of importance of the task environment.

Gerry Gaffney:

I must admit I was extremely sceptical about it when I first, somebody asked me, a client asked me to use it and I said, “No you don’t want to use that, that’s crazy!” you know because you come up with this huge list and you think I’m actually going to get people to go through this massive list but they do, well we’ve given people sort of awards and prizes and things like that to encourage them to sit down and fill it in but you do get you know you do get a remarkably clean, concise delineation of those tasks.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah actually two years ago we did it for the European Union and we had 107, 000 people voting.

Gerry Gaffney:

Wow!

Gerry McGovern:

Like you know in twenty-eight countries and this is the thing as well, Gerry, I don’t know if you know this, we have to be very careful about our gut instinct, you know, that often what I think will work doesn’t work, you know?

You build up knowledge of course over time and experience but a lot of this stuff is counter-intuitive. I find a lot of complex environments are counter intuitive and you just have to go with the evidence, like I didn’t think it would work, I discovered it by accident.

It wasn’t a brainwave that I, you know, I discovered it through a card sorting process where I used to keep a record of the cards at the back of a manual when I was doing workshops and I would tell people to use the cards because I thought there was all these tactile advantages but then I noticed people, and I thought they were cheating, they were going to the back of the manual and they were using this big spreadsheet that listed the tasks to do the sorting and I was saying to them, “No, no, no you can’t do that. That’s not the right way to do it.” And then so many people started doing it in the workshops that I just decided to experiment with it so you know I didn’t think it would work.

Gerry Gaffney:

You talk a lot about being evidence-based and one of the forms of evidence that you talk about is video. I find myself that that’s very, very powerful, particularly for reporting upwards and getting things happening at a senior stakeholder level.

Gerry McGovern:

Absolutely, absolutely, you know I think it’s critical because what it is is the customer. There’s a customer, and often it’s the first time they’ve seen somebody use their website and particularly if you can string three or four at the exact same place having the exact same problem and then say, that represents a 40% failure rate, and I think that flooding, getting that you know that should be in the reception area.

There should be a TV showing you know we should have it in the offices, we should have… I think that’s one of the critical changes, bring the customer in, bring the experiences of the customer in, everywhere, showing people trying to use the environment because that’s one of the critical problems.

Gerry Gaffney:

Yeah indeed and it’s so cheap you know to do it.

Gerry McGovern:

Totally, it’s not an expensive… It takes time but what are you spending your time on otherwise, you know? People don’t have time to observe their customers when it’s the most critical thing you can do in a digital economy.

Gerry Gaffney:

You’re a big fan of remote moderated testing.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah I think properly done in a very systematic way with skilled people it really delivers tremendous value. We’ve discovered that if you test with about between 13 and 18 people and we know there’s years and years of evidence out there that 5 to 8 people or 3 to 8 people you’ll discover if there’s core underlying problems, and that’s true but what we’ve discovered after doing that hundreds or thousands of these, testing people was that if we kept testing outwards to about between 13 and 18 you begin to get stable results.

So in Cisco we’ve been doing it every six months or so since 2010 and we notice, you know… so you have a 60% failure rate out for a specific task so we test the same task. So the top task would be download software and every six months we essentially test “Download the latest firmware for the RV042 router” so it’s the exact same question, we choose the exact same sample, not the same people but the same group of engineers or whatever, and if they haven’t fixed the problem, if we test it in January it’ll be 65, if we test it in August it will be 67. But if they have fixed the specific problem it’ll be up to 73 or 74.

So you know we find that if you do this properly and appropriately and you test with that right number and the tasks are very, very carefully selected based on top task, you know we could spend weeks working with tests with Cisco, we’re doing a services test now, we’re spending weeks on the questions because you’ve got to get the questions exactly right.

So it’s not something you just something you slap together in an afternoon. If you really methodically go about this and treat it with great rigour and you’ve got good experienced usability professionals doing the testing so they’re not leading people etc etc, I think you can get really solid data and it gives you an insight that the statistical data often doesn’t. But if you combine the two of them then it’s very powerful in the process.

Gerry Gaffney:

The numbers you mentioned there, Gerry, they were scores right? They were your task performance indicators scores when you said 65, 67, 70 something, is that right?

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah it would be, we would measure, we really measure two things; the success rate and the time on task. So the success rate, so we would be able to go back to Cisco and say so 60% success rate and you can say that to management. It’s not a wishy washy number. We’re getting solid numbers out of testing between about in around 15 people. Again, very carefully constructed task questions etc but you’ve got a management metric and then when you combine them with other tests, you know you do this more systematic testing say on an annualised basis and then you can do all the other stuff on a weekly basis, the quick, the unmoderated, the AB etc where you just isolate a segment of the task or whatever.

But you need some sort of a systematic management metric as well I think that gives you these overall figures of here’s how the VAD [?] application environment is performing.

Gerry Gaffney:

Isn’t that what the net promoter score does?

Gerry McGovern:

Ah… I don’t know if you’ve found it Gerry but I’ve found that there’s a huge gap between what people say and what they do. We find, when we look at Net Promoter Scores you have a net promoter score at about 80, right? When we do a task performance indicator that’s often at about 40. So we find there’s often a 30 to 40 point gap between these satisfaction [measures]. We’ve had people who fail miserably at tasks and we asked them “How satisfied are you?” “Oh, very satisfied. I thought it was a good experience.” You know and of course also you’ve got the negatives, if the economy is bad, if there’s been a price increase, like these satisfaction things can be, you know you can show a Donald Trump supporter a hundred facts that are positive and give them a great experience in the Hillary Clinton website but they’ll still hate Hillary Clinton you know? And vice versa, you know this satisfaction is a very problematic measure we find in many areas of… you know, true action and behaviour I think are the crucial things to watch out for today. What do people do? Not what do they say they do.

Gerry Gaffney:

You’re very precise in the book about the task performance indicator, you’ve got a chapter on it and it’s not just time on task and failure rate. You also rate the importance of the task and a few other things and whether they you know if failure does occur whether it’s catastrophic or inconvenient and so on. I enjoyed that chapter very much because it’s really about getting here is a number, you know, here is really, really solid data.

Gerry McGovern:

Well I think that’s our problem, Gerry, in a way, in our industry. We don’t have numbers. The senior they don’t really believe these other figures that much, the traffic or the, they know they’re a kind of a crummy number. They still use them and we lack numbers, solid numbers to communicate with and that you can sit in front, because there’s no point in going up to a bunch of managers and saying “There’s a poor experience, we’re not treating our customers well.” You know we’ve got to be able to not just have the numbers but show them the consequences. So we could show that you know when we increased a task completion rate on a form by 21 percentage points that resulted in a reduction in support calls from 1500 to 700, you know? We’ve got to not just have our numbers but interconnect our numbers with the other numbers, you know the other KPIs and show how it changes. A positive change in our KPI or task performance or whatever has an equally positive change in other KPIs and I think that’s part of it. We need a more mechanical way or a more precise way to measure the experience. I still don’t think, we have this vague kind of religious concept called “customer experience” or “user experience” and I mean the modern world, we just don’t believe in religious concepts nearly as much you know it’s a feel good, you know we’ve got to make it much more solid.

Gerry Gaffney:

I was fascinated by, and it’s a short chapter but you’ve got the case study of your work at Cisco and obviously Cisco has been very open in regard to letting you publish this stuff although I suppose there might have been stuff that you weren’t allowed to publish but it’s great to see a company being that open about their data.

Gerry McGovern:

It is and you know Cisco like all organisations, lots of complexities, but they’re broadly a very open and customer centric organisation. You know again, everywhere there’s ups and downs and there’s challenges but we’ve had fantastic, particularly in the support area of Cisco, you know, just a wonderful team of people that are you know genuinely wanting to give a… to help people do their job, you know to get that engineer off the site an hour faster than they were able to get off that customer site two years ago, because you know you can make the engineer’s life easier etc, you know they stay with you longer, their company stays with you longer but it’s been a real honour and a privilege to work with Cisco over the years.

Gerry Gaffney:

And you obviously enjoy your writing. You do a weekly newsletter and you’ve got these six books and you know you’re sort of, you’ve got a turn of phrase, you quote Beckett in here, you must have had Fr Devaney as an English teacher, did you?

Gerry McGovern:

[Laughs.] Did you? Yeah, in Mel’s

Gerry Gaffney:

Yeah

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah, yeah I did actually.

Gerry Gaffney:

There you go.

Gerry McGovern:

That’s gas! Yeah I did. He was a good teacher, yeah.

Gerry Gaffney:

Yeah, very impressive teacher. Well, we’re getting totally side-tracked here but it occurred to me at some stage when I was reading the book that you must have had an inspirational English teacher.

Gerry McGovern:

Yeah, well you know obviously it’s what I do a lot of and I keep coming back to it even though I’ll say I’m sick of it you know or otherwise you know it’s… You’ve certain skills and you might as well use them I suppose.

Gerry Gaffney:

Yeah, now we started off by questioning the word “rebel” in the title of your book and recently at UX Singapore I had an un-conference topic that I ran and the title was “Is transformation just another buzz word?”

Gerry McGovern:

And it is, you know they’re all buzz words you know, but if you see there’s a wave going and there’s a word that is working at this moment in time, why not go with it? But I think there’s a big change whatever we call it.

I think there’s a real societal shift occurring and I think the customer has transformed, you know, but the organisation has not. I think we’ve a new customer, a new citizen, a new… you know they’re not the same that they were 25 years ago. But most organisations are the same that they were 25 years ago.

So the customer has transformed and the organisation has not. Now whatever word we use for it, and I think what the book… it’s not about buying your latest CMS it’s about changing your culture. It’s a cultural transformation, away from that organisation, great man, hierarchical, working your silos, industrial age production line, produce the content or produce these things in isolation and then we fit them all together.

You know, that doesn’t work anymore, that model. And it worked well and it will work for certain things and it worked for building cars and etc etc, but in a modern complex interface you can’t have one group write their specs and then they send it off to the programmers and then they program based on the specs and they send that back. That just doesn’t work in a minimally viable product rapid iteration where you don’t even know what the spec is. You’ve got to evolve the spec as the customer uses the actual product.

So I think there is a genuine societal work way of changing and whatever words we use for that, you know I picked on “transformed” for now but there is a change.

Gerry Gaffney:

Well there you go. The name of Gerry’s book is Transform: A rebel’s guide for digital transformation and it really is very, very well worth reading for anyone who’s interested in I guess thinking about users and how they can get their organisation to be more customer centric and I guess to enable the transformation that’s taking place all around us whether we like it or not and we can be either on the wagons going West, to use your analogy, Gerry, or we can just see them fade into the distance.

Gerry McGovern, thanks for joining me today on the User Experience podcast.

Gerry McGovern:

Thanks very much Gerry.

Gerry GaffneyTransforming & Measuring: An Interview with Gerry McGovern

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