When it comes to applications the end user experience reigns supreme. No matter how good the underlying business logic might be; if the end user experience is cumbersome the usage of the application naturally starts to drop off. Unfortunately, patience with applications is in short supply. In a Web 2.0 world people expect an application to be fairly intuitive. Alas, every end user has a different definition of intuitive so it’s hard for developers to make every user perfectly happy.
But what is possible is to provide much higher levels of support functionality directly within the application. End users today have come to expect that help is literally a mouse click away, either in the form of knowledge bases that allow them to answer their own questions, or social networking tools that allow them to get help from an expert quickly. The trouble from a developer’s perspective is that setting up the infrastructure to provide that level of service can be prohibitively expensive.
The good news is that we’re starting to see the emergence of IT service management software being delivered not only as a service in the cloud, but also wrapped in a rich set of APIs that make it easy to seamlessly integrate these services inside other applications. Somebody still needs to provide the expertise required to support the application. But the need to acquire, manage and dedicate IT infrastructure resources to run a service desk is no longer required.
For example, ServiceNow, a provider of IT service management software delivered via the cloud, has wrapped that entire capability up in a set of RESTful and Web Services APIs designed to make it easier for developers to embed the ServiceNow service directly within an application environment. According to Craig McDonough, director of product marketing for ServiceNow, the whole goal of that effort is to make it simple for developers to be proactive about delivering service and support without having to invest millions of dollars in IT infrastructure.
To help drive that effort ServiceNow recently added a new Scrum process pack to the ServiceNow Software Development Lifecycle application to better link agile software development projects to IT service desks. New functions include planning boards, progress boards, burn-down charts, preferential ranking and the assignment of standard roles. That approach creates a direct relationship between development and the software defects reported.
In short, what McDonough is getting at is that the barriers to delivering superior support as part of a significantly enhanced customer experience are dropping; along with the excuses for not providing one. No matter how good the application may be; end users are going to be most loyal to the application provider that gives them the most support. And unless that support is a mouse click away; it’s simply going to be viewed as the developer not caring enough to be concerned about the quality of that end user’s experience. Obviously, some developers may choose to provide these kinds of capabilities themselves for any number of reasons. The only thing that is no longer optional is not providing them at all.