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Two men use HCD techniques to review a new app as part of DevOps

Integrating Human-Centered Design with DevOps Will Deliver a Better Customer Experience

Software development teams are built for agility and speed. Once solutions are deployed, DevOps teams watch how customers interact with the application and use it to solve their problem. From this post, cross-functional teams can spot unexpected customer behaviors and monitor system performance. If an anomaly is detected, they can act quickly and collaboratively between developers (code writers and testers) and IT operations (responsible for keeping the applications running optimally). 

DevOps teams are part of a bigger service operation team that works toward delivering an exceptional customer experience. After all, every service organization wants its customers to see the organization’s  solution as the best, resolve customer issues quickly, and be first of mind if the customer faces similar challenges again in the future. But like any one part of a bigger service team, DevOps teams’ view of customer challenges is limited and their focus is addressing the observed customer problems as quickly as possible. 

DevOps teams must optimize for speed in ways that preserve connections to customers. This is necessary to fully address the issue the customer is experiencing today and to better understand the larger problem  the solution addresses for the customer. If customer-driven discipline is not built into every DevOps cycle, the service can suffer from a slow erosion of the value that comes from customer dialogue. 

Human-centered design (HCD) is a body of techniques that explicitly places customers first. It seeks to understand the outcome the customer is trying to achieve and the various alternatives and approaches customers employ to get their desired result. Integrating HCD into the DevOps cycle—or CustDevOps—streamlines service operations and DevOps processes while increasing the customer’s perceived value of the service. 

HCD frames customer outcomes in business terms 

HCD starts with the customer and the results they are trying to achieve. It also accounts for the capabilities of service providers. The best solutions emerge where the interests of both the customer and the service provider align. HCD frames the customer outcome and the challenges they face in achieving their outcome in business or mission terms. It provides the business or mission opportunity to make this issue urgent and compelling.

HCD thrives on customer feedback and validation 

From the earliest stages of prototype development, DevOps teams benefit from customer feedback. Understanding that time is of the essence, capturing immediate customer input in each increment can help shape the solution. HCD teams must be creative in how they capture customer feedback and account for the lead time of recruiting and sustaining a community of engaged testers.

HCD grounds automated performance data 

DevOps teams build performance metrics into deployed solutions so they can immediately understand how well the new functionality enables the customer to achieve their result. Ongoing dialogue with customers complements automated performance data feeds to establish empathy and understand why customers are responding they way they do.

HCD looks at the whole experience 

IT professionals are susceptible to the saying “to a hammer, everything looks like a nail” and may view every customer issue as something a technology can fix. The reality is there are many other complex reasons that customers struggle to achieve their outcomes beyond just their interaction with a technical solution. HCD seeks to understand the customer’s perspective in the context of the whole experience and can help solve non-IT problems that will ultimately help IT work better.

HCD provides a continuous thread so the voice of the customer is resonant in each part of the DevOps cycle. Building HCD discipline into each step ultimately helps customers achieve their desired outcomes faster which in turn helps DevOps teams focus on new features.

John DiLuna
About the Author
John DiLuna is the founder and CEO of Technical Assent.

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