This question is becoming more critical as running outdated and inflexible business applications has significant cost implications and makes it more difficult for enterprises to keep up with lasted technologies such as cloud, social media, and mobility. Enterprise users are shifting their focus from features to usability, and their routines are evolving from “in the office, 9-5” to “anywhere, anytime, across multiple devices.” This shift is prompting enterprise software vendors to adapt the user experience (UX) of their products to deliver value in new user contexts. So why do intelligent, experienced educated designers and product managers produce software that frustrates their user base? To get some answers, I canvassed a number of product managers, designers, and enterprise app software development professionals. From their feedback, I identified the following roadblocks that enterprise software teams face when making significant updates to their software:
- Enterprise buyers aren’t users
- Architecture constraints
- The risk of alienating the established user base
- Under resourced design/product management teams
- Too many user groups, too many features
- Designing customizable solutions is a huge challenge.
After uncovering these common roadblocks, my colleague Scott Plewes, VP User Experience, and I offer the following three recommendations that product managers can act on immediately to bring enterprise applications into the “now”.
1. Define your evolution path based on rigorous user research – Do you know what speciﬁc aspects of your user interface would yield the highest return on investment (ROI) if you updated them?
2. Undertake a technical analysis to determine your options – one of the biggest constraints product teams face is the existing code base and software architecture. The plan you put together to evolve this code base is critical.
3. Get your product managers, designers, and developers working together as one team. How many times have you heard “The product manager presented a great-looking product concept, but the final product just didn’t live up” or “Our developers are really frustrated with the designers. Their designs are blue-sky dreams. They just aren’t realistic.”
The demand for modern enterprise software is snowballing, particularly on new platforms such as mobile devices, tablets and in new contexts such as domain-specific software. Moreover, enterprise software apps will longer be sold solely on the basis of their back-end power of how they manipulate data. Usability isn’t optional anymore. The people who buy their software will increasingly recognize good design as a necessary feature that saves huge amounts of money in training costs and lost productivity.