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Creating the impossible at Bloomberg

Jeff Fairbanks III, global head of IT operations, AV and media technology at Bloomberg, talks to Paul Bray about user experience - and happier, more productive employees

According to Jeff Fairbanks III , the perfect user experience doesn’t exist. Odd, then, that his presentation at ISE 2018 was entitled ‘The Convergence of IT/AV – the Perfect End User Experience’. But of course what he means is that there’s no standard ‘perfect experience,’ because there’s no standard user.

“Ask five people about their perfect experience and there’s a good chance you’ll get four or five different answers,” says Fairbanks, who was speaking as part of the AV Magazine sessions at the CEDIA Smart Building Solutions Theatre (sponsored by KNX) at ISE. “As technologists, we need to constantly evolve our approach to fulfil the unexpressed wants and needs of our clients and guests. This means doing more user-based research to see what people expect.

“We need to make the experience as easy and intuitive as possible for a layperson. All too often technologists think an eight-step process is simple because that’s how they are wired. But nothing could be further from the truth. Moreover, companies constantly position their product as the cure-all for your end user needs. In reality, there’s no magic bullet, no off-the-shelf solution. Your users are not my users. So the perfect user experience must be specifically tailored to its audience.”

Essential experience
Fairbanks’s presentation outlined the strategy, process, and metrics behind building a comprehensive user experience ecosystem, helping audience members to navigate the commoditisation of unified communication (UC) solutions and tying together user data with knowledge and action. He then took the plunge and dived into the AV/ IT ecosystem to forecast the next iteration for user-focused solutions.

All too often technologists think an eight-step process is simple because that’s how they are wired

“My key message was that UC is not a product, but the confluence of AV/IT technologies which is informed by user experience first, last and always,” says Fairbanks. “I thought it was important to give a practical example, so I concluded with a case study outlining Bloomberg’s unique set of UC challenges and the solutions we created to satisfy our users’ needs.

“Over the next year we plan on driving three core principles at Bloomberg: user experience, transparency and automation. We want our users to be able to self-service where they feel comfortable and leverage support when they don’t. The driving force behind this is that if users are comfortable, they’re generally happier and more productive. One of the things that drives us is always looking for the best and easiest products for us, our environment and our end users. This forces us to constantly look at our landscape and, in conjunction with our internal partners, refine our standard operating procedure and streamline our processes. Our goal is to simplify the user experience without removing any expected functionality.”

Intelligent planning
It’s fair to say that creating a positive user experience has never been so important, or at least so high-profile. Fairbanks puts this down to increasing sophistication among users themselves.

“I think that the user experience is being driven by a more informed and intelligent user base. There’s less of an appetite in the industry to utilise outside ‘knowledge’ to tell users what they want (or should want). The world has shifted to a more convenient, individually personalised experience in everyday life, and this has driven a marked change in users’ professional expectations.”

So does Fairbanks have any suggestions on how ISE could improve its own user experience? He smiles. “The sign-in procedure is ‘interesting’, so perhaps there’s an opportunity for process improvement there. But overall ISE is amazing, the technology keeps getting better and the atmosphere is electric. It’s truly the greatest show on Earth!”

This interview is taken from the ISE Daily Executive Issue 2018.