If you win the lottery, will your colleagues be able to take over your processes? The mere mention of desktop procedures in any accounting related department is usually met with a groan… few people enjoy slowing down their processes to document each step. Yet these begrudged documents are the backup plan to you jumping on a plane destined for a sunny destination.
When I was studying for my bachelors degree, one of my leadership classes required that I give a presentation. As part of this presentation, I decided that I was going to have the class participate in an experiment. I had a picture in my hand, with a couple basic shapes. The experiment was simple. I would give instructions on how to draw these shapes – their shape, size, placement, color, etc. – and the class would produce a drawing based on my instructions. I was excited… I was going to demonstrate to the class how important clear instructions were in leadership. This would be a sticking moment, one they would remember as they took on that first management position and I would land an ‘A’ in this course. The problem is… the main shape, a quarter moon, I described as a half moon. Not a single drawing in the class matched the drawing in my hand. Red faced and scrambling to push past this error in front of a live studio audience (read: classroom full of now smirking college students), I learned the importance of testing instructions.
The term, usability test, is something generally reserved for IT teams who test end-users. They want to ensure that navigating through their project is as easy as they designed it to be. Though not common in the accounting world, usability tests are a great way to ensure your desktop procedures will lead your colleagues to the desired result. They are also a great way to knock out some cross training.
I prefer blind tests – where the process owner does not actively lead the tester through the process. Each test requires the participation of a colleague who is not familiar with the process. He/she utilizes the desktop procedures to complete the process, tracking the number of questions asked in order to reach the desired result. After completion, suggestions are given to improve the procedures.
I recommend at least 3 tests with 3 different testers to ensure that the procedures are interpreted similarly and produce results that are not materially different from one another (this is the accounting world, after all). However, you may consider continuing past the minimum 3 tests if the testers are asking multiple questions.
Performing usability tests on your desktop procedures are a sure-fire way of ensuring that your colleagues do not bother you on that lottery winning trip to the Bahamas (though let’s face it… we all know you intend on changing your number). Plus, you never know which one of your testers may have an awesome trick up their sleeve that could result in you cutting that process in half! Happy Testing!