Just recently we did a user research in the area of exam management at a University. This University is considering to purchase a new solution for their processes around managing student’s life cycle and they would like to find out if some standard solution would fit to their requirements.

In many (most) cases a central department is publishing a tender with all in their point of view relevant requirements. Software companies and implementation partners send in their offering for the tender and University is deciding for a solution.

At that point of time they have not spoken to end users to learn about their responsibilities and main tasks. This is starting now in endless workshops with the objective to implement the solution in a way that it fits to end users’ requirements. In most cases it is necessary to organize user training before go-live and offer user manuals.

In my recently experienced case University has decided to set a step before working on a tender and publishing it. They follow the same objective: find out what the requirements are and which solution would fit to it. But they follow this approach on the basis of methods like user research, creating use cases and interaction designs.

During the user research the IT department attended the user interviews as well. And they were surprised and shocked about the results and the insight they got.

The University licensed a solution for the processes related to exam management plus the IT department has provided a self-developed solution for the output of all transcripts and certificates.  We interviewed four different faculties who all have to support same exam management processes but only one faculty is using the licensed solution plus the self-developed solution. Another faculty is at least using the self-developed solution. The other faculties are either working on paper or on the basis of excel lists or have developed their own solution which no one else can support or maintain. They put themselves in a dependency of one single person which would lead to a crash in case this person is for some reason not available anymore.

How can this be that services provided by the IT department are just ignored and not used by the end users?


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IT departments of University are following objectives such as:

  • The purchased and provided solutions are accepted and used by all end-users.
  • Be innovative and provide latest solutions with great user experience.
  • Improve return of investment as processes run smoothly and user training can be minimized.

Can methods – usually used to create great design and best user experience for applications used as well to achieve these objectives?

Of course. University could consider already during the request for proposal or tender phase to listen to their end users and learn about their main goals, responsibilities, needs and pain points. It is necessary to create empathy for the end users and provide best fitting solutions to them.

With the creative potential of the end-users University’s IT will be enabled to drive their business innovations and support the shift shown on the graphic above.

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