The first time I met Steven Taylor, President and CEO of Ignite Collaboration Services Group (IgniteCSG), he said something to me that’s always stuck.

“We aren’t an IT company,” he said. “We aren’t even really a collaboration company. We’re an experience company.”

An experience company. Interesting point, I thought, and an important distinction in a time when customer service seems nonexistent in so many industries, including technology. Ever tried contacting Microsoft Support to ask them a question?

Experience is the product of interactions, observations, and perceptions. These interactions evoke emotions and form memories, often in seconds. Today it seems experience is everything. The consumer’s experience with a brand. The employee’s experience with an employer. The user’s experience with technology.

Human laziness is the mother of invention

User Experience, or UX, is about how people interact with a product or service, and whether that experience is easy and pleasing. Most often we talk about UX in terms of web and application design — is it easy for the user to find the information they need, and can we guide them through the technology in a way that is not annoying and/or frustrating?

Technology smoke signals

Most innovations are born of the human desire to get things done faster, more efficiently, and with less effort. All you have to do is look at the evolution of communication, or any other human activity, to see that we have never wanted to be inconvenienced. That’s not to say that sending smoke signals in 200 BC was convenient, but it was a hell of a lot easier than walking up and down the Great Wall of China all day just to chat with your comrades.

If you want more evidence, have a look through some of mankind’s most notorious failed inventions. There’s a reason why portable record players and phone-answering-robots didn’t work. They didn’t make life more convenient for humans.

We’ve come a long way since the Hindenburg went down in 1931 (turns out highly flammable hydrogen blimps are not super practical), but there’s at least one thing that has not changed through the ages, and that’s User Experience. UX is at the root of every successful innovation. Why? Because if you can’t get people to use your innovation – quickly, easily, and without hassle – your innovation is dead. Just ask the makers of the BlackBerry.

If you don’t win at experience, you don’t win. 

Why experience matters for collaboration

Back to Steven. The reason his statement about Ignite being an “experience company” struck a chord is because it’s something we can all relate to. The notion of workplace has shifted significantly in the past few decades, with many of us telecommuting, working remotely or collaborating in distributed teams. Raise your hand if you’ve been on a conference call with a crappy connection, crackling audio, unreliable video, and/or inadequate presenter tools. We all know that these things matter, and we can all agree that less work gets done in remote teams when you don’t have the right collaboration technology.Dilbert Con Call

Then there’s the boardroom experience. I once worked for a company where you couldn’t even reliably book a meeting room, let alone expect any of the technology in the room to work. There were cords strewn across the room in every direction, and nobody in the office seemed to know how to get things to work. If you wanted to conduct any sort of meeting, you had to show up half an hour early, armed with a backup plan, and hope for the best. At a certain point, it’s like why bother?

Collaboration shouldn’t be an afterthought.

Your teams need proper tools, education and support to make the most of your technology investment. And if those tools aren’t making life easier, you’ve got a legitimate problem on your hands. There are a lot of ways to do collaboration wrong, but it’s also so easy to do it right.

The cool thing about Steven, and about Ignite, is that “experience” extends beyond the meeting room to encompass customer experience, including adoption and support for its clients, as well as employee experience both in and outside the organization. Rarely will you find an organization so passionate about and dedicated to its mission.

By the way, if you’ve never met Steven, you should. He’s quite an inspiring and animated character. It’s worth chatting him up if you ever catch him in line for a coffee at his second home, Deerfoot Meadows Starbucks.