March 28 by Raphael Sweary
Have you ever bought a movie ticket on your smartphone? The interface is simple, painless and might even go so far as to fill you with delight. This is the world of consumer based software. If the user experience of your product is not decidedly positive, it simply will not survive.
The usability of B2B software, on the other hand, has evolved at a slower rate. Ever peeked over at the teller’s screen when you bought your movie tickets on the spot? It’s not quite the same. Even though employees might become frustrated on a daily basis with the sluggish relic they use to service customers, they don’t have another option if they want to keep their job and the company probably didn’t have a lot of options either.
This contrast can also be observed between software built for the individual consumer versus that which is built for the mass of employees in large companies. Many B2B software programs resemble the second example, and as such, are costing the company money in wasted productivity.
Why is Software for Internal Use Less Appealing?
Software for internal, organizational use will typically have sophisticated requirements that are not needed in consumer software, and as a result the product’s simplicity, aesthetics and ease are much lower on the priorities. Business software is more complex. Let’s reflect back to our movie example: The consumer only needs to browse movies and purchase tickets, whereas the cinema has a wider breadth of tasks such as setting movie schedules, returning tickets and selling concessions.
Software is expensive to develop. Especially true for internal projects, the focus is on functionality rather than a polished interface with the user (or employee) experience, in mind. Reluctance to shell out extra money is also due in part to the fact that money is already allotted to training employees on the necessary platforms. Additionally, when software is purchased externally, the extent of customization is limited to its intended purpose, not necessarily to the full extent of how the organization could use the system.
One more reason that UX may not have been prioritized is that until recently, it did not show ROI. If employees are able to perform needed tasks in a system, how much does improving the ease of that task really bring the company?
Consumerization of IT is Counterproductive to Employers Goals
With the rise of the smartphone, came a trend referred to as the consumerization of IT — emerging from a workplace of people who know they deserve better. Employees expect the same freedoms to choose applications they prefer in the workplace, as they do in their personal life.
BYOD (bring your own device) has been on the rise, and with it, employees who are using external apps to get their job done and transferring them at the final stage back to work-sanctioned platforms. This is extremely counterproductive to the employer’s goals, undermining analytical access, ability to track and optimize ongoing processes, and in some cases can even expose the company to security risks.
Better UX Means Better Adoption Rates
The silver lining of the consumerization of IT is that it proves that employees are eager to adopt technology with a friendly UX. One obstacle many companies face when implementing new software is low adoption rates. Despite purchasing the software, lecturing on its benefits and extensive training programs — in many cases, employees simply do not use it. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”
The key here is very simple: if you give employees software that is functional, intuitive, and easy to use, employees will want to engage.
Salesforce illustrated its understanding of this principle with its interface update — Salesforce Lightning. It’s not that Salesforce wasn’t working, but with some usability tweaks, it can yield even higher productivity.
A New Breed of UX Friendly B2B Software
The solution, as a business, is to find systems that put processes first.
A new wave of companies are pioneering a streamlined user experience for organizational software. These companies are re-imagining the way we work and interact with complicated, sophisticated systems by offering smart solutions to “consumerize” B2B software. One trend we have been observing is the arrival of smart layers and complementary tools which work alongside business staples like Salesforce to smooth the entire process.
Why is this important? Boosting employee productivity is a hot topic, and it is important to address the issue at its core: Employees who are using robust platforms require more expensive training in addition to the initial cost of the software. Those who are not fluent in the systems they depend on — are wasting valuable company time. Systems designed with not only the user, but also the business model in mind, result in much higher levels of efficiency which drive a better bottom line.
The demand for this shift proves the need for it — companies who do not invest in user and process-centric systems will be left behind. No matter the use case: B2B software that prioritizes UX makes it easier to do business.