By Charlie Tuxworth, Director of Software & Innovation, Equiniti
How can I buy your loyalty as a customer? How about your loyalty as an employee? How valued you feel is a key factor, but arguably more important is how pleasurable, easy to use and rewarding a service is… and it’s this which secures lock-in. User Experience (UX) is the science behind the thinking that aims to elicit those positive responses and it’s come to impact every aspect of our digital lives, giving rise to the consumerisation of IT and the BYOD movement. Yet despite the successful application of this approach to the Customer Experience, enterprise software systems have yet to receive the UX treatment. The software that millions of us use every day for work continues to be unwieldy, uninspiring and overly complex.
If the tools we are given to work with fail to live up to expectation we feel dissatisfied and demotivated. Productivity suffers and there are financial repercussions for the business. However, if UX for Line of Business (LoB) systems is prioritised, employee performance increases; solutions become leaner and more intituitive; and the overhead of training users is reduced. So why are vendors and businesses not making systems easier to use?
The first reason is the user. Habituated to these systems, we become change averse. Users can tell you just where the painpoints are, helping to grade the severity of design flaws, but are unable to visualise how these can be re-engineered. It’s here where UX Task Analysis can help, by mapping the number of steps or workflows needed to complete a specific task, and then looking for incremental or radical changes to improve it. To anyone coming from a background of business process reengineering, the approach might seem familiar.
A common issue is the sheer amount of data entry required. Anyone who’s spent time flying back and forth to London will know that it seems to take hundreds of key strokes to check availability or to change to an earlier flight. For the airline representative a simple request has become time and work-intensive because the system is not geared towards user need.
Obviously the top priority for a software vendor is to appeal to prospective buyers. Unfortunately, in the enterprise space, those buyers are not usually the users – they tend to be IT, Finance or Procurement - and their decision is based on benchmarking functionality and license costs, rather than ease of use. Vendors also want to secure repeat licencing for their product and that leads to them promising more features over time, rather than investing in better UX.
Even when the enterprise does recognise the value of UX, it can be painful to implement. According to the ‘Enterprise UX Industry Report 2017-18’, which surveyed over 3,000 UX professionals operating in the B2B space, top challenges included clarifying requirements (identifying what needs to be changed), testing designs with users (due to logistical, time and cost constraints), and improving UX consistency (it can become difficult to ensure consistency and scalability enterprise-wide due to the diversity of solutions and complexity of the ecosystem).
The problems I’ve outlined are very specific to Enterprise UX, making it distinct from Consumer UX – which is where the attention lies. That said, there’s a great deal Enterprise UX can learn from its consumer equivalents. Banks, financial organisations, and others have invested significant sums in UX to develop mobile apps and browser based services, and this has resulted in UX emerging as a discipline in its own right.
UX follows a clear process including user research, design, protyping, and validation, and uses a variety of tried and tested techniques. UX allows function to be enhanced alongside form, making systems more intuitive, efficient and engaging. But make no mistake, this is no ‘nice to have’. Without UX, we will fail to attract and retain talented individuals in the future. Generation Z simply won’t put up with systems that make their job harder. If we want to avoid that brain drain we need to put the user, and not just the customer, first.
For more information, contact Charlie Tuxworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.