Friday, March 3, 2017

The Future of Use Cases

By Keith Unterschute, Director of Consulting Services, Mainstay

I have to admit that there have been more than a few times in recent years when I struggled to understand how an emerging technology would actually change the world. In the early days of smartphones, for example, even marketers struggled to think of applications that would make the phone truly revolutionary.

Sure, you could do email, text messaging and maybe web browsing on these phones, but that is where our imagination ended. In many cases, the reality of the future just doesn’t map to our efforts to envision it. In the case of the smartphone, my imagination was limited by what I knew were current limitations that existed in the technology.

Fortunately, we have “use cases” – a commonly used business analysis technique that illustrates a specific business use of a technology’s capability – to help people quickly understand the value of a particular technology. It’s a powerful way to overcome our imaginative shortcomings.

The beauty of the use case is that it often doesn’t look too far into the future. In fact, one customer’s future is another customer’s past. A great example is a technology as simple as instant messaging. You would be surprised at how many companies still don’t value an enterprise IM solution.

IM often gets introduced into enterprises because their own employees go to work from the future, their own personal lives. They start to use it to get things done at the office because they have been using it to get things done at home.

Let’s take a closer look at the humble instant messaging app. How on earth can this simple app do anything to really help a business? Isn’t it just a more primitive way of talking on the phone and certainly inferior to phone conversations?

Perhaps not. Most of us now know that IM is the preferred mode of communications in certain situations. IM lets you ask a quick question – and get a quick answer-- without the need for a lengthier conversation governed by rules of etiquette. IM has its own, more efficient etiquette. Quick answers to simple questions can be critical when time is of the essence.

A great use case example is found in medical environments where case managers (those dealing with insurance companies in behalf of a hospital or patient) may only have 24 hours to build a better case to overturn a denial of coverage. These cases are built on physician input, and you can’t afford to burn 12 hours waiting for a very busy and mobile doctor to get to their email or voicemail to respond with a simple yes or no answer. Putting IM on his or her mobile device with the understanding that messages in that form require a fast response can make all the difference for the case manager -- and ultimately for the hospital and patient.

So, if you want to sell the idea of an enterprise IM solution to a non-tech-savvy business executive, consider presenting it in the framework and language of a use case. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that it will only waste employee time, the executive will clearly see the tradeoff between time and money and make a smarter investment decision as a result.

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