I worked at a company that was a national company, but had grown as a collection of regional offices. The regions occasionally built their own software applications to suit their needs. Over time, people noticed that some applications were redundant as they had been built in multiple regions. Or in other cases, one region was out shopping for a product not knowing that another region had developed a product to meet the same need.
The corporate IT group was asked to ‘take over’ a regional application that could fill gaps in other regions as well. Our job was to make sure it was secure and put in our data center, i.e. all the technical stuff, and also to make it easier to use.
To that end, I went to the region and met with the manager of a group of users of the application. She didn’t quite understand why I wanted to go on a client visit with her employees and watch them use the software. She proceeded to give me a demonstration of the software. I sat through the demo, thanked her, but stated “we never know what we’ll find when we watch people use applications in their natural environments.”
Sure enough, within the first hour, I had my moment that I could take back to the manager. Users were working in the application, then going into MS Word, cutting and pasting from MS Word back into the application. This went on for 20 minutes when I asked them to think out loud and tell me in a little more detail what they were doing.
“Well,” the user said, “I share these reports that get printed out with our customers. And I’m a REALLY bad speller.”
Turns out the application didn’t have a spell-check function in it, so the users would use MS Word to spell-check and then cut pieces out and put into the various fields in the application.