The walls between tech professionals and customers are collapsing at consumer companies

The walls between tech professionals and customers are collapsing at consumer companies

Portrait of woman examining futuristic looking digital interface technology.

Image: Bloom Productions/Getty Images

Outside of the tech industry bubble, how close are tech professionals really to collaborating with their company’s end customers? Are they still locked in the walls of their IT departments? Or are the walls finally falling? It seems clear that some the walls are finally coming down, and in the process, tech professionals are learning new roles in design thinking and as educators.

The walls between technical teams and end-user customers have completely disappeared in some mainstream companies. This was certainly the case at McCarthy Holdings, a commercial construction company. For McCarthy, end customers are the last occupants of buildings under construction, explains Justin McFarland, executive vice president of information systems at McCarthy. “Our job is to help construction partners work alongside new technologies.”

The company’s technology teams work alongside its project managers to deliver. “That end user experience is essential for us,” he explains. “We encourage our technology professionals to step out of the office and onto our construction sites to better understand what trades and field workers do on a regular basis, and identify possible opportunities for technology to help them in their work. day-to-day work. Observing, listening and asking questions are essential to… help deliver a more effective customer experience.”

Also: Design thinking can help connect tech professionals more directly to customer experience

Tools that help drive this engagement include “prediction, automation, smart job boards, and digital twins,” he says. “We have resources in each of our geographies where we adapt new technologies from project to project to ensure the ‘why’ is understood, provide the necessary training and support, and educate teams on the how this technology solution makes sense in current processes and day-to-day operations.”

At the same time, getting tech professionals up to speed on the crucial elements of that customer collaboration — user experience (UX) and design thinking — is a challenge, adds McFarland. “There is a widely recognized expectation to create smooth and positive customer experiences. That said, specific training and technology capabilities are a headwind that professionals know. While traditional employees can be completely immersed and knowledgeable about a certain program and technical capabilities, it is more unusual to have both technical expertise and UX design expertise.The construction industry struggles to strike the right balance between expertise and awareness technology with UX and design skills.

Developing user experience and design skills is a priority for McCarthy’s IT department, McFarland says. “Training in UI/UX and visual design is key to delivering both a superior customer experience and product. This could also include educational elements around storyboarding, prototypes and how to analyze them, as well as It’s important to note that we don’t need to be experts in all of these areas – we can and should leverage our partners in other areas. teams, such as marketing or communications, to ultimately shape a design ask and where to focus are key.”

Also: User experience: not quite about the user and not really about the experience

Other skills relevant to technology professionals, particularly in the construction industry, “include communication and leadership training to assist with facilitation, collaboration and presentation tasks during the life cycle of a project,” adds McFarland.

McFarland’s team has another mandate: to help and educate colleagues who may not be tech-savvy. “By showing clear examples of what worked well and what we can do from now, as well as the impact on someone’s day-to-day life, teams can break down barriers to adoption. We recognize that we work with a range of experiences and are comfortable with ever-changing technology tools,” he says. “We are working to educate more permanent staff on why technology is important, how it benefits everyone involved and [how to] demonstrate value to those who are less tech-focused. We also identify champions in the field who are willing to try to validate new technologies and leverage these teams to influence their peers to accelerate their adoption.”

This peer-to-peer interaction allows groups across the company “to hear from other experts, as this technology can seem new and potentially daunting. We also implement thoughtful change management strategies to help build trust and , ultimately, to gain greater buy-in for our technology solutions.”

Also: Coding skills are in demand, but companies expect more from tech professionals

Another part of the challenge is aligning “the complicated application ecosystem that our construction teams and partners use during the life cycle of a project,” he says. “We’ve seen that connecting to system A versus system B can create a different user experience. With multiple programs in place, our goal is to leverage technology to create a common and consistent experience.”

McCarthy is in the phase of exploring the use of “experience layer platforms to better support our partners and the full project lifecycle from start to finish – from the early planning phase when a construction project is under consideration, through design and construction, and through to operations,” says McFarland.

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