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Comment | “It’s Time to Take the Tech out of Technology”

Doug Cunningham

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Technology
In an increasingly tech-driven world, Doug Cunningham, CTO at Edinburgh-based Forrit, explores why simplifying user experience is more important than ever. 

Business’ reliance on technology has increased significantly in recent years, accelerated by Covid-19 and people working remotely – and this trend won’t change any time soon.

A recent survey from the Open University found at least 85% of UK SMEs which adopted new technology over the past year – or used it more – plan to continue this usage once restrictions ease further.

This growing use of technology should result in a corresponding rise in tech skills, but that’s not necessarily the case. The survey also highlighted that only one-third of business leaders think their teams have the required digital skills to manage programmes and applications.

In the past, this likely wouldn’t have been an issue; companies had on-site IT teams for a reason. However, things have changed in recent years, particularly due to the pandemic. People no longer have the support they would in the office and, to some extent, have had to become their own IT specialists.

There’s a growing trend in tech companies to make products that are more intuitive for people who don’t have a technical background.

A great example of this is Slack; it’s grown into a simple collaboration platform used by people across every department and discipline. That’s because, despite the complex engineering behind the scenes, the user interface is so obvious that anyone can navigate it.

Traditionally, enterprise systems and CMS programmes were intricate and difficult to use. But these shouldn’t require multiple users to navigate.

Usually, it’s a marketeer who knows what needs to be updated on their website – they shouldn’t need an IT specialist to come to their aid. Complexity under the hood shouldn’t be the responsibility of end users. Instead, the system should take care of it for them so employees can get on with their true job functions.

This is true for nearly every other industry and technological development outside of computers. Consider riding in a lift, for example. Some people will understand the mechanics behind the machinery and the difference between geared and gearless lifts.


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But that’s specialist knowledge. All people want to know is, “can I push the button and get out on the correct floor?”

It’s not important for users to know how it works; all that matters is that it does. With enterprise CMS builds, as long as the guardrails, checks and balances are there to prevent less experienced operators from publishing something they shouldn’t, the end user should be able to confidently explore the platform and develop their own autonomy around using the technology.

For some tech companies, this will be a massive shift in their business model. It’s a mindset change with regard to product development. But the result will be more independent end users, with less reliance on specialists.

Given that nearly every employee in every industry uses technology as part of their job, the alternative is for businesses to upskill everyone – which is an impossible task.

Simplifying the user experience and making it less techy is a win-win for everyone. The IT team can focus on their jobs, everyone else can focus on theirs, and the company isn’t paying for additional unnecessary support.

Doug Cunningham

Doug Cunningham

Chief Technology Officer, Forrit

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