Sunday, December 09, 2007

Enterprise Software - it doesn't have to be complicated

Why do we accept that Enterprise Software has to be complicated and unfriendly? This is a fallacy that needs to be driven out. Consumer web-based software is setting the standard for ease of use. Nicholas Carr points this out in his recent blog as he joins the blogosphere conversation on the subject.
Enterprise software is still largely in the mindset that roll-outs take time and training. That people have to be taught how to follow prescribed processes. Amazon and eBay process billions of complex, secure transactions every month. Yet, their software guides the users through the process quickly and efficiently. I believe that the issue stems from a process design challenge. Enterprise software developers need to spend more time thinking about the process they are undertaking. Taking the time to really understand the process from the user perspective. That means paying attention to terminology used, asking for information in the best sequence, limiting choices and presenting additional fields based on earlier responses.
These are the lessons that should be learned from consumer software on the web. How can this be best summed up? May be this way:
If you need a manual in order to use your enterprise software product then may be you went wrong somewhere. Design the application so that a help manual is unnecessary. 
This is not just wishful thinking and an impossible goal. Well designed software that is simple to use brings rewards by not requiring extensive staff training, fewer help desk calls, simpler support materials, less rework, fewer errors to handle. All this leads to a more effective and productive staff.

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