User requirements

Most enterprise applications support specific business processes, such as onboarding a new employee, managing financial reporting and supporting product development. Search may support each of these processes and perhaps hundreds more as it fills in gaps in information and knowledge. It comes as a surprise to many companies that a significant majority of searches are either to find people by name or role, and to track down a specific application such as the expenses claim system.

Again, most of these enterprise applications are used only by a relatively small number of employees (for example in HR). Typically search applications may be used by 60-70% of all employees from front-line customer support through to the main Board.

It is impractical to interview everyone and large-scale surveys rarely justify the work involved to gain even a basic level of response. Another factor is that many staff are working at home or on a hybrid basis and that is likely to continue in the future even if the balance between the locations changes.

The approach I adopt is to start with developing personas, and then conducting a series of semi-structured interviews with employees that represent these personas. I have used this approach very successfully over some 30 years of consulting work. The secret of success is in the way that the interviews are conducted but this process is only disclosed to clients.  

Typically, there may be 6-8 personas and interviewing 4-5 employees for each persona provides a very sound baseline for developing a set of user requirements that scales across the organisation. It is quite feasible to complete this programme of work in four weeks provided that the client chooses the interviewees with care.

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