Member Spotlight! Miller Systems

Posted by Kate Jurras on Fri, Jul 27, 2012

Get to know a MITX member! This month we're featuring Miller Systems.

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1. In a nutshell, who is Miller Systems?

We’re a nearly 20 year old user experience driven professional services firm. We work with mid-market and enterprise sized organizations to improve and manage their web sites, intranets, portals, and day to day IT operations.

Why do customers come to Miller Systems for help?

At the outset of a new relationship, we’re usually called upon to address a substantial strategic problem or opportunity in the business and a highly focused effort is required to address it. There’s usually a need for the strategy and implementation of both the UX and underlying technologies.  

Can you give some examples of the types of things you’re working on these days?

Sure! Top of mind: Strategy, design and development of a large scale web site, intranet, or customer portal; writing near and long-term IT and experience roadmaps, especially when SharePoint and/or cloud services are part of the plan; revamping the IT infrastructure and support model for a business that’s outgrown what they have; design and implementation of self-service experiences; integration efforts following a merger or acquisition.

What happens when a project is over?

It depends a great deal on the client and the situation. It’s common for our team to be in it for “the long haul” with a customer, providing ongoing services to make improvements and/or “care and feeding” support. If there’s an existing in-house team, we’ll perform a detailed handoff so that the client can be self-sufficient.

3. What has been Miller Systems’ greatest accomplishment in the last 12 months?

We have two projects that we’re really proud of, both of which have secured multiple awards and serve as great examples of our holistic approach.  

We recently shipped “InnerTube," WGBH’s primary intranet for its staff of nearly 1,000, using SharePoint 2010 - we’ve got a case study on our web site about it. We worked together to transform WGBH’s corporate intranet from a content repository into a highly functional experience that connects people together and raises the "organizational IQ" of the organization.

The strategy, design, and development work we did for Southern New Hampshire University in overhauling their public web site was also a significant undertaking with great results. The engagement included the creation of all-new goals, personas, user experience designs, aesthetic design, and technical assets to facilitate the effort.

Both projects were substantial, multi-quarter engagements that met or exceeded client expectations and requirements.

4. What makes Miller Systems different than other companies in your space?

We have a broad interpretation of what “user experience” really means, and how we strive to deliver it properly. The idea that there are “users” and there are “techies” is often used as a crutch. Everyone is a user, and we all deserve simple and easy access to the applications we use most. This is the basis for why we have had tightly intertwined Managed IT services and a development practice since we founded the company nearly 20 years ago. That philosophy, perhaps more than anything,  is what differentiates us from our contemporaries.

Regardless of whether it’s a web site, intranet, app we’ve developed, or the day to day infrastructure that our managed IT services team supports, we understand that the net result for users depends on everything working correctly. Just getting look and feel right doesn’t matter if a site or app doesn’t function intuitively; it’s equally important for these things to perform well, reliably and consistently. That takes a cross-functional team, with specialists that really buy in to that philosophy.

5. It sounds like there’s a “Miller Systems way” of doing things.  Care to elaborate?

There’s definitely a philosophy at work in everything we do. We focus first on human beings and the quality of their user experiences; our own personal and professional experiences have taught us that this is the path to success for all involved. We recognize that technology is at the heart of our business; as a result, we will always strive to balance the inevitable technical challenges we face with the human side of the equation, so that we consistently deliver the best quality results. Our goal remains simple: deliver high quality experiences that help our clients meet their goals.

6. What are some of the larger challenges you see customers facing today?

Great question. The challenges customers face today are broad and the implications for their business are far-reaching; all require thoughtful consideration. Issues we hear about from our customers include, in no particular order: Confusion over how to best leverage the cloud.  The speed at which the mobile marketplace moves. The complexity and nature of investments required to execute on security, disaster recovery and business continuity.  Whether “BYOD” investments are going to be worthwhile or realistic. Doing more with less/the same and maintaining momentum / execution goals. The measurement challenges inherent with the seemingly never ending addition of new marketing channels and technology tools.

Finally, confidence in the overall economy has been very fluid over the last several years. This uncertainty makes it difficult for some organizations to make the bigger, long-term commitments necessary to achieve the right ROI on UX and IT investments.

That sounds daunting.  How do you help clients make good decisions?

Good consultants help clients distill their goals into clear prioritized plans to act. Everyone’s situation is different, even when they are experiencing common pain points. We take a very simple, common sense approach: listen, process, come up with a creative, pragmatic solution, and recommend it. The answers, or the processes to uncover them, are rarely easy, but it’s what we do – and it’s why we get selected.

7. You’re not a start-up - you’ve been at this a while. What’s changed?

When we started in 1995, it was the tail end of the PC revolution and the beginning of the Internet revolution.

There’s obviously a ton that’s evolved that’s made all sorts of things faster, easier, more affordable, and location-independent. And that’s good news for us, because it means that we’re designing, architecting, and supporting exponentially more devices, people, and tools. The net result is that we’ve always got plenty to do. ;-)

Give us your perspective on one trend that you think people should think about.

We find way too much stuff out there that’s just plain broken. These aren’t nits; we’re talking the important stuff: shopping cart checkouts that lose all your items after a 20 minute shopping session, online college applications that can’t submit properly at the deadline (when it’s busiest and most important). This stuff matters to people. It’s a utility, just like power or clean water. It needs to work flawlessly and be available whenever and wherever we need it.  Make no mistake; brands live and die by the users that rely on a company’s digital presence. Just read Facebook when someone really blows it.

What hasn’t changed much in the last 17+ years?

That one’s easy. Our general approach hasn’t changed much at all, regardless of what kind of customer we’re working for, or the type of project we’re on. We’re always asking, “What’s the problem or opportunity?”; “Who is this thing for? What do they care about?”; “How can we implement it so that on day 1 it works correctly?”; “How do we measure and maintain quality and effectiveness?  Will we have awareness when a quality problem arises?  If our experience has taught us anything, it’s that a team of people working on the kind of projects we tend to work on need to focus on the answers to these questions, regardless of how challenging that may be over the course of a long project.

8. Why does Miller Systems partner with MITX?

MITX offers Miller Systems a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded marketing and media professionals that are seeking a better understanding of the impact of converging digital technologies on our business, clients and industry. Interacting with organizations that we’d call our peers or competitors is always useful to make sure that we stay relevant and keep in step. Interacting with other organizations that focus on things adjacent to our areas of expertise gives us a chance to further explore new trends and technologies, exchange ideas and generally advance our practices. We have been a part of the MITX community for well over a decade, and continue to realize the benefits of membership through the many connections we have established over the years.