ASP.NET Security Consultant

I'm an author, speaker, and generally a the-way-we've-always-done-it-sucks security guy who specializes in web technologies and ASP.NET.

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Beware the Expert Fallacy

Published on: 2011-12-11

The fact that the relationship between business and technology is so contentious at times is due to behaviors on both the business and technology sides. I've been writing mainly about the technology side primarily due to my familiarity with it, and not due to its relative importance. If business and technology are to work together as one team, though, business leaders need to change too.

A friend of mine told me of a conversation she had with a co-worker that exemplifies a serious problem in the business community when it comes to technology. In a nutshell, she was questioning whether the navigation for the new website that had just gone live was understandable to the average user. The response was something along the lines of "the design was created by experts, so I'm sure it will be fine". The problem, though, was that there were several departments within this organization that were placed in unintuitive hierarchies. The designers created the design based on the existing hierarchies, not taking into account how users might use the system.

I come across this problem all too often. Technologists are often experts in technology, but they too often know little about your particular business, or in this case, they know too little about marketing. I wasn't involved in the design process of this particular project, but I'm reasonably certain that the design team created a site using an existing color palette and the design specifications given to them, but didn't question whether that was the most intuitive way to present the information to users. 

Why didn't these people go back to the web designers to see if something more intuitive could have been made? Essentially, many business users put too much responsibility on the technology team to build a business product. Technology can be confusing at times for anyone, so trusting the technology team to technology seems like a safe thing to do. The problem is that while the design team knew the technology, they didn't know the business. In this case, no one, neither the design team nor the business team, was really focusing on the user's experience. Because the user's experience was overlooked, user satisfaction will almost certainly suffer.

The solution is straightforward, though not simple: the business team must not view technology as its own area, but instead integrate the thoughts on technology into the thoughts about the business. Any software that is created should involve as much communication as possible between the technology team, business team, and a representative sample of end users. By working together, and not treating technologists as experts in anything that seems technology related, businesses can create software applications that are a pleasure to use.

This article was originally posted here and may have been edited for clarity.