Enterprise application development has always focused strongly on features and functionality, while user experience has not been foremost in the minds of developers or clients. Users of enterprise software such as HR systems, CRMs, accountancy systems, etc all know how complex and cumbersome they are for users. The main reasoning behind it being that clients who pay for the applications are rarely the same people who use them, and don't think about them in terms of the users.
Consumer UX vs. Enterprise UX
Consumer UX - User experience design that is concerned with apps and solutions created for the general public. Consumer UX has seen massive improvements in recent decades
Enterprise UX - User experience design concerned with applications built for internal use by organisations and their employees. Enterprise UX has seen much slower growth due the focus on functionality over usability.
Factors Contributing to Low Improvements in Enterprise UX
Creating an application that serves both functional and usability needs of an organisation can be a more costly process. One that higher management would generally prefer not to pay for. As long as all functional needs are met, management is generally satisfied to let users figure out the applications through training or manuals.
Usability vs Usage
In most cases, unless a consumer application is designed by a UX engineer with high usability in mind, it will fail in the market and have few downloads. For example if we wanted to download an application off the Google play store, we would first look at the ratings and reviews.
In contrast, enterprise users have little choice but to use the applications that management has selected for the organisation. It matters very little how unusable the application may be, as long as it has all the functions and provides work arounds when it doesn't, all complaints will fall on deaf ears.
Client vs User
One of the main reasons contributing to the low usability of enterprise software, is that it is rarely the end user who will provide the requirements or make the decisions concerning the software being developed. Due to this they rarely consider how bad UX can affect the productivity of the end user.
The Value of Usability in Enterprise Software
While they may see some cost savings on the initial development of the applications, organisations that skimp on the usability aspects of their internal applications face more issues in the long term and lose out on several key benefits.
One of the main gains from investing in usable software is the increase in employee productivity. Applications that help the users to reach their goals and complete their tasks easily and efficiently cut down on the time they spend on these tasks. Simply reducing the number of clicks it takes to perform common routine functions, or the number of screens navigated can have a huge impact as all the seconds and minutes add up over the year. This ultimately results in increased revenue for the company.
Increased employee satisfaction
Using a system that has been designed with their ease in mind has a great motivational effect on employees. The ability to carry out their tasks without too much pain involved is every employee's goal, and in giving them the opportunity you can raise their satisfaction. This results in lower turnover, once again saving your organisation time and money.
Well designed applications lead to better collaboration between internal teams, and a better quality of output. Good enterprise software provides easy and efficient ways for employees to collaborate and communicate on work tasks.
Better quality of data and information
Better systems lead to fewer mistakes, fewer mistakes lead to better data and information. A well designed system taking user feedback into account also factors in all the data and information that will be available day to day work and decision making.
Enterprise UX has traditionally been a neglected area in software development. Thankfully modern CIOs and IT managers are realising the importance of usability in enterprise software and are taking steps to remedy the situation. Most decision makers have already realised that savings made by focusing solely on functionality are negated, to say the least, by the loss of productivity in the long run.
Taking a step back and considering the value of enterprise UX, it becomes harder to not invest in well designed UX systems.