User Experience Demands Transformation in Today’s Enterprise IT Network Management
July 12, 2016

Linda Ellis
Ipswitch

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Historically, many workers stayed clear of their company’s IT department. They didn’t understand -- or even need to understand -- how servers, firewalls and data centers supported their daily tasks. The responsibility of selecting, implementing and continuously managing complex network software was delegated to specialized IT administrators, with fellow employees left blissfully unaware of the IT infrastructure that made their work possible.

But times have changed. As technology has become increasingly crucial for the success and scalability of any business, IT departments have become more central and collaborative. The rise of consumer technology in the workplace has also affected enterprise IT. Cloud-based tools like Dropbox, Google Drive or Evernote have surged in popularity thanks to their stellar user experiences, and both IT departments and workers have benefited from their affordable price and accessibility.

Despite their availability and ease of use, however, consumer applications can quickly become a nightmare for companies and their IT departments. There’s often no control over what applications are being used, what content is being distributed or who’s accessing it, which can lead to serious security consequences like data leakage or compliance violations. In fact, a recent report by Netskope
found that a staggering 92% of cloud applications are not rated enterprise ready, meaning they lack the security, audit and certification, service-level agreement, legal and vulnerability capabilities required for safe workplace use.

In order to keep up with the ever-changing needs of enterprise IT networking and security, IT departments need to leverage software solutions that offer intuitive and seamless user experiences to both workers and IT administrators. By participating in identifying and implementing tools that fill employees needs while providing quality experiences, IT departments can support employee productivity rather than hinder it. At the same time, they’ll be able to more easily and securely govern the plethora of consumer applications inundating the enterprise.

Below are examples of software characteristics and user experience best practices that can provide workers with efficient workflows yet also meet the functionality requirements of IT administrators:

■ Web-accessible features can simplify authentication, access, and use, as well as provide the modern styles and interaction elements that workers have come to expect from their tools.

■ Software that has been optimized to simplify the user experience of the most common workflows allows frequently performed tasks to be conducted in a clear and streamlined fashion.

■ Menus that are easy to navigate, responsive, and tailored to user access rights provide customized experiences for each user, and are especially important for comprehensive software solutions that work well for both workers and IT administrators.

■ Data-intensive software should use presentation methods that match the data’s purpose. For example, use lists and tables when the purpose is to compare across multiple items so the data is easy to visually scan, but when the task requires manipulating items, use objects like icons or tiles to present the data to support more direct interaction.

■ Software should present data that is accurate and relevant to the task. For example, if the purpose is to provide actionable insight to a dynamic system, the data should refresh on its own, be specific to the purpose, and be presented so that a glance is all that is required to notice an important change.

■ The software should leverage the strengths of both technology and the end-user. While computers with powerful processors and large databases can churn through massive amounts of data, well-designed software can also rely on the human element to be part of its success. For example, presenting content as graphically arranged objects like a map can tap into the human brain’s ability to pick out and recognize visual patterns to identify meaning from complex inter-connections.

The reality is, the explosion of consumer cloud applications has empowered workers to circumvent IT departments altogether and select their own software solutions, whether or not they’re safe or even remotely suitable for the workplace. In order to ensure workers use approved software that meets enterprise security and compliance standards, IT departments should implement solutions that offer the equivalent user experience to most consumer cloud applications. By closing the gap between the historically disparate user experiences of IT administrators and end-users, both parties can be more productive, compliant and secure.

Linda Ellis, Ph.D., is Senior Manager, User Experience at Ipswitch.

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