Software vendors: the user is the key
Unfortunately, user experience is rarely the starting point in business.
Too many companies still choose to operate with old methods or boilerplate tools.
During your career, you’re bound to have used a word-processed schedule or an Excel-based budget model.
A dense application market
Necessity does not always free us from the embarrassment of choice
However, the range of management applications has developed enormously: it has become specialized, or verticalized and has grown considerably.
The market with the largest number of proposals remains that of CRM (Customer Relationship Management) for which there are nearly 700 different solutions on the market according to G2.
A market that is also growing rapidly, according to Grand View Research forecasts.
In other areas, specialized solutions are also multiplying around the needs of human resources, project management, finance, logistics…
Choose based on relevant criteria, including user experience
Identifying the right application for a given company or problem requires a great deal of analysis. The project manager or CIO needs to gather a great deal of information.
Here are a few points of comparison to consider:
- Innovative features
Whether they meet legal, tax or social constraints, or are there for greater ergonomics, in both cases publishers must ensure that they are highlighted in the presentation of their offer.
An example: with the dematerialization of controls, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning or management software) that does not allow for the production of the FEC (French File of Accounting Entries) will be dismissed by its French prospects.
- Integration capabilities
Whether it is with very specialized complementary solutions such as a payment platform for example, or with an office suite, integrations have become commonplace. No one today imagines that you can’t rework your marketing audience on a spreadsheet! It’s more about efficiency than comfort.
- The customer service
We tend to forget this, but in general, a company that has already experienced problems of reactivity or relevance will scrutinize the support conditions very closely. The editor or integrator will be challenged on this point or demonstrate the quality of its service.
- Excellence in one area
Especially for niche solutions or companies operating in very specific or highly standardized sectors, it will be easier for the client company to project itself if it has the assurance that its points of attention are already considered.
With the proliferation of SaaS offerings, pricing, and licensing models are being examined and projected according to the company’s perspectives. Unless one of the other points of comparison is very salient, the cost of acquiring and owning the solution is most often the decisive factor.
- User experience
The simplicity and user-friendliness are quite easily perceptible as soon as the interface is presented. But the fact that the navigation is intuitive, really adapted to mobile use, with real-time restitutions… requires a more important exposure to the solution (tests, videos, customer feedback platforms).
Project phase: success is not a given
Once all these criteria have been objectified for each solution, we can be satisfied with having identified THE right application. Indeed, this step is a first victory. However, the solution still must be implemented and adapted to the company and its users.
The statistics speak for themselves:
The failure of a new software deployment project is an unfortunately common occurrence. We all have in our own experience one or more software implementation projects that have been disappointing.
In theory, the product and the project were extremely attractive and full of promises: efficiency, simplicity, and productivity. If the functional capacity is there, the implementation is too often incomplete or disappointing.
Key users will generally spend time transcribing their processes or adapting them to the chosen solution. Then the next step will be to make sure that what has been implemented is properly relayed to the teams concerned.
The project manager will necessarily plan a training phase. Whether it is provided by the solution publisher itself, by an integrator, or by the key users, who are stakeholders in the project.
This makes sense. An employee who is poorly trained, unconvinced, or uncomfortable will not use the tool correctly or even at all.
The user experience begins at the project stage
Is there a consensus on the software to be deployed to improve the company’s operations or performance?
Has its implementation been explained and adopted by future users?
Did they prefer the status quo? Were they in favor of another solution?
Were they convinced that the software they chose was the right fit for their company’s needs?
Answering all these questions lucidly allows you to avoid one of the following three situations:
- The solution may not be convincing at the demonstration or pilot stage. Sometimes, the ergonomics demonstrated seem too rudimentary or unsuitable. At this stage, disappointment can be catastrophic for the project and disengage the user team. The good news is that there is still time (before any major financial commitments are made) to change the situation. In particular, by listening sincerely to future users, by carrying out new demonstrations, and by modifying the outlines of the project. And when necessary, by challenging the chosen application.
- It can take much longer than expected to implement, and some even experience endless deployments. Because the team is not convinced or because it cannot project the expected benefits… So the project will not be treated as a priority. Everyday life and responsibilities take over and the deployment will wait.
- Finally, and probably because alerts detectable beforehand have not been dealt with, it can disappoint once implemented. Poorly deployed tools are poorly used. They do not meet the initial needs described by users or imagined by the project sponsors. It is then often too late to correct the situation, except to start a new project…
Failure takes several forms
The consequences for the company, faced with such situations are not anecdotal:
- Costs: For example, it will be necessary to keep access to the previous solution, maintain it, and add consulting days. Even though saving money is an important driver for a software implementation project. According to Aberdeen Group, operational costs are reduced by 23% thanks to an ERP.
- Disengagement: The perception of an imbalance between the resources committed and the prospects of gains of any kind, is a disavowal of the project. Change management is the responsibility of the team, who will not make the necessary efforts because of a lack of purpose.
- Stagnation: “In the end, it didn’t work so badly before”. Sometimes the solution envisaged does not bring enough value in the eyes of future users. Or the adaptations seem too cumbersome to them, the company will often choose not to innovate.
So training is good and support is essential, but listening is key, and anticipating is an asset.
This is true at the project stage to identify the “process-tool” pair that is best suited to the needs of the users. But it also applies at the solution design stage.
3 ways to a more engaging experience
All these points of vigilance or failures are detrimental to the project team, and in particular to any consultants. Nevertheless, it is not in the editor’s interest to have 50% of its software deployments be disappointing. And here again, the user experience is crucial, even after the implementation phase is over.
Adoption is about simplicity
The following anecdote says it all
When implementing a time-tracking tool in an innovative company, the CTO explains that although it is essential for him, he does not expect his teams to fill in their timesheets. In his opinion, “people fill in a tool when it brings them something”. Time reporting does not bring anything to the user.
Of course, this CTO is partly right. The “reward” system can be a great lever and influence the motivation of employees. But motivation is the result of many other factors such as personality, experience, values, personal goals…
However, if the effort required to populate this famous tool is too great, contributors will be lost along the way. They’ll fill in less accurately. They will enter data less regularly, or not at all, without being forced to do so. And for this, we can’t blame them.
On the other hand, users may be very committed to part of the process. Then they perceive less interest or value in the previous or future stages.
Let’s take another example, that of expense reports in an HRIS (Human Resources Information System) or an ERP. It is easy to imagine that an employee will have a real commitment and interest in having visibility on the status of his reimbursement requests as well as on their payment, less on the realization of the bill… A user who has taken 4 months to declare his expenses, will often expect to be reimbursed in the following week. It’s only human!
The lesson of this story
So one of the best ways to ensure that your software will be used and that the data entries will be well done so that the solution brings the expected value, is to make sure it is easy to use.
In our previous expense report example, optical character recognition (OCR) has been adopted by most invoice and expense management vendors because it relieves the user of what was tedious or worthless data entry. In fact, according to a study by Markets and Markets, the global OCR market is expected to grow from $7.9 billion in 2020 to $13.4 billion by 2025, indicating a strong demand for the technology.
Successful user experience requires scalability and flexibility
Beyond the ad hoc satisfaction when a new application is implemented, it is important to ensure that the system is capable of evolving. Indeed, the commercial, financial, and logistic teams will resize themselves and/or make their procedures evolve during the life of the company.
Therefore, a user who is looking ahead will want to make sure that the solution will allow him to manage a larger team or one that is organized differently. Prospects of acquisitions or integration will also challenge the chosen solution. Will we be able to manage more subsidiaries? Will we be able to distinguish entities or projects? We will have to verticalize and integrate a production activity. Will we be able to back it up with the chosen software?
It’s a good idea to give users a voice and keep them informed of short- and medium-term projects: newsletter, user club, release notes, sharing the product roadmap, etc.
Finally, highlighting the evolutionary aspect of a software product helps to establish a relationship of trust between the software publisher and users. The supplier thus expresses that he is committed to providing a quality product and seeks to establish a long-term relationship. This presupposes that he seeks to evolve his offer to adapt it to the needs of his customers.
Informed and forward-looking users feel more comfortable with the software because they know they can count on a partner who is willing to help them adapt to technological evolutions and new business challenges.
User experience on the move
A report by Nucleus Research reveals that for companies using a mobile CRM, 65% reach their sales quotas. While only 22% of salespeople using a non-mobile CRM reached the same objectives.
Because of their missions, a considerable number of professionals are on the move on an almost daily basis. These users don’t always have the time or comfort level to use software from a web portal or executable.
Marketing messages from application vendors such as “Optimize your processing costs”, “Control your accounts”, and the usual ROI promises are worthless if the solution is not used.
Allowing employees to interact with the application while roaming and doing so in a simple way by adapting the interface, but also the path, is an important guarantee of good adoption and use by all employees. To ensure that the data entered is of high quality, publishers must offer a simple and intuitive interface.
Let's take a very concrete example of purchasing management:
An application that offers the implementation of a Procure-to-pay (P2P – a process covering product selection, supplier order management, and the processing of corresponding invoices and payments) process must have thought about its proper use in mobility.
In many cases, approvers are responsible employees who are likely to travel to meet with their teams in the field or with partners.
Let’s imagine ourselves for a few seconds in the shoes of the controller or buyer who is waiting for expenditure commitment approvals, and who does not receive them, because the signatory is in the field and does not have the time or the appropriate interface.
It is easy to see that the processes will not be respected and that the teams involved will be frustrated, especially since it is likely that those requesting these unapproved purchases will naturally contact the other parties involved in the purchasing process.
Offering intuitive, even natural, interactions and providing visibility into the evolution of your product (which must evolve) guarantees a more engaging user experience, which will only reinforce the credibility of the solution.
So why not focus on the user experience?
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