Let’s consider a common situation in real estate. Imagine you own rental properties in multiple countries. Each country will have the rent paid in a different currency. Now, when your team is updating the journals, human error can creep in. They might record a US property with the payment amount in GBP, or vice versa, a UK property in USD.
This mistake is small and easy to make, but it can have serious consequences. If it only happens a couple of times it’s easily fixed. However, if it’s happening increasingly often, then something needs to change. Who’s responsible in this situation? The user made the mistake, so it must be their fault, right?
Software developers are familiar with problems like this. They’ve developed a special way of handling the issue...
Every Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) has some way of categorising defects into a variation of "the user is at fault". Colloquially, these are known by several names:
While these acronyms might be amusing on the surface, they speak to an attitude towards users that tends not to result in truly effective software. As we move towards a world where IT departments accept the role of service providers to the core functions of the business, it becomes critically important to bridge the divide of pre-conceptions between the two.
I’m sure you’ve experienced similar blame attribution within your business. In our earlier example with the wrong currency, we’d blame the user who made the error. This overlooks an opportunity to improve our software or internal processes.
I often find myself defending bugs that end users raise to development teams with the simple notion that there are no “stupid users”. I believe most mistakes can be put into one of two buckets:
While there may be a plethora of external factors driving one or both of these root causes; e.g. internal politics, vendor changes, language and geographical barriers – the fundamental truth remains sound.
Our currency example would fit comfortably in both buckets. There’s a training element that could be addressed; you can minimise the mistake in the future by providing your team with training that highlights the error and shows how to select the correct currency.
Additionally, it could be worth contacting the developer of your software and seeing if they can add some sort of verification feature. If that’s not an option, consider using a third-party tool on top of your tech stack. For example, Hydra SmartForms can automatically verify your data before uploading it.
If you reframe errors in this way, you’ll minimise future mistakes, increase efficiency, and deliver a better user experience.
Changing the way you view mistakes is easier said than done. It won’t be an overnight process, but a good starting point is to recognise when you’re attributing blame to someone. Change your mindset that the user must be wrong when they say something isn’t working – even if you’ve used it successfully.
Typically, we just need to add the words “as expected” or “as required” to the end of their sentence. Over time, your business has to view those sentences as a challenge to gather user requirements in a different or better way. It can also mean you need to present solutions in more accessible ways.
Not rising to this challenge means the only problem that exists between a keyboard and a chair is you.
We recognise it’s not easy. Building a culture focused on improvement is a time-consuming and challenging process to address in-house. You’ve already got to juggle lots of demanding tasks in your business. Adding in even more work isn’t always feasible. That’s where we come in.
The outside perspective we bring to our clients lets us look at problems from a truly objective position. We’re not interested in attributing blame. Whether you're using our Helpdesk support services or working with an individual consultant, our goal is to fix your problems and support your continued growth.
The currency example was part of a problem a client was experiencing. They were having more errors occur monthly. Rather than cast blame, they asked us to help. We analysed the problem and gave the client a multi-step answer including detailed user training, a software solution, and suggested improvements to their internal processes.
Accepting our recommendations minimised errors, boosted efficiency, and enhanced the user experience.
Most businesses default to a blame culture when mistakes are made. Moving past this takes a concentrated effort but it offers substantial rewards.
I’ve shared how most problems can be reframed as inadequate training or software design issues. Using this framework allows you to quickly identify areas of improvement in your business. Try and catch yourself before attributing blame the next time someone makes an error. Ask yourself which bucket it falls into and how best to address it.
Catherine was a Principal Functional Consultant at TopUp with a focus on MRI Software PMX. (Fact: could query MS DOS Registry before she could read!).
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