There are plenty of people involved in building software, from engineers and product managers to visual designers and usability testers. Yet even with all of those people involved, the final product may not be optimally designed for the end user.
That’s because there are some questions about human behavior that market research can’t fully answer. When it comes to building enterprise software, according to SAP’s James Harvey, the question is, “How people, either by themselves or collectively in teams, interact with a problem?”
As SVP of engineering and cloud operations for SAP SuccessFactors, Harvey has looked beyond the typical realm of technology workers to help answer that question. SAP SuccessFactors has a team of about a half dozen behavioral scientists who are constantly observing SAP customers and potential customers — sitting down with people where they work and watching them work.
“They don’t design, they don’t write requirements, they don’t do anything traditional software people do,” Harvey said. “They focus on studying humans, interacting with problems.”
Using anthropologists and behavioral scientists to assist in UX design isn’t exactly a new concept. Decades ago, Xerox PARC relied on social scientists to help design copy machines. Major tech companies like Dell, Microsoft and Intel have long employed social scientists. And two years ago, Cognizant acquired a 49 percent stake in ReD Associates, a consulting firm that specializes in understanding human behavior. Cognizant and ReD Associates created a strategic partnership,…