Getting Your Hands Dirty: Why It’s Important to Assess User Experience in the Sandbox


There is no question. Improved user experience is driving HR technology selection. In ISG’s Industry Trends in HR Technology and Service Delivery Survey, 90 percent of organizations rated “ease of use” as a must have. In fact, “ease of use” came before what have traditionally been seen as more important factors, including “configurability,” “depth of functionality,” and “modern look/feel,” as well as “mobile and social features” and “predictive analytics.”

So how does one go about evaluating user experience? At the risk of stating the obvious, evaluating user experience needs to happen by experiencing it.

Software sales consultants have become very good at conducting demonstrations that appear seamless and that highlight the specific capabilities they want you to see. They may or may not focus on the features most important to you, and they are very unlikely to expose critical gaps in functionality or interoperability. This is why you must try it for yourself.

First of all, consider creating a comprehensive and well-structured approach to your evaluation process. Be sure to define critical requirements and key use cases. Create comparable scripts that are executed consistently across vendors and—perhaps above all—secure the opportunity to directly experience the technology through a hands-on trial in what is often known as a sandbox environment.

You wouldn’t buy a new car without a test drive, right? Testing in a sandbox environment is the same principle. It allows you to explore the products and test key use cases directly in the system. Not only does it give you a better sense of the user experience, it allows you to test the interface design, product functionality and movement between different parts of the application. By actually experiencing the technology, you will be better able to answer important questions like:

  • How easy is the system to navigate?
  • How intuitive is it to perform a task?
  • How many clicks are required?
  • Are the screens simple and contemporary or cluttered and dated?
  • Can the application be configured to meet our key business requirements?
  • How much training will be required?

The return on investment of new technology clearly depends on how well and how quickly employees across the organization adopt it. Participating in sandbox testing will go a long way to ensuring adoption after deployment of the new technology.

Of course, keep in mind the testing experience may have some limitations. The sandbox environment will not be configured (or at least fully configured) to your organizational requirements. Integrations will not be in place, and you may not have access to full functionality. Some technology providers are adjusting to new demands by creating ready-to-configure sandbox environments, detailed user guides, online help features and collaboration channels within the sandbox to assist users through the trial. Given the importance of the user experience, providers that are unwilling to give open access to clients for sandbox testing—or those providers that do not offer sandbox testing at all—are likely to find it increasingly challenging to compete.

Enterprise buyers that conduct sandbox testing tend to find a sandbox experience is either a great validation of their preferred vendor or that it reveals critical gaps that allow another vendor to emerge as a better fit. Whichever the case, they always have a clearer understanding of the user experience and a concrete understanding of differentiators between solutions.

ISG helps enterprises navigate the complex path toward HR technology selection and adoption. Contact me to discuss further.

About the author

Stacey is a director and a key contributor to ISG’s human resources and talent-related technology and services. She advises clients on all aspects of human resources engagements, including recruitment process outsourcing and talent management. Stacey is a prolific blogger, and is frequently interviewed by industry publications. With nearly 20 years of experience in solutions strategy, product development, corporate HR, operations delivery, transitions and HR consulting, Stacey has deep operational knowledge of the talent space and her clients’ challenges, as well as a unique ability to ask the right questions to help organizations align their sourcing initiatives with their vision.