From a company perspective, when we talk about investing into UX (user experience) and UI (user interface), we most often think about customer facing applications and products. Somehow, we are naturally wired to approve investment for business activities that are directly correlated with increased customer engagement. But what about employee engagement?
We use enterprise software to run various aspects of our businesses, starting with the sales process and extending to accounting, finances, human resources, client relationship management, supplier and inventory management. Nevertheless, it is no secret that enterprise software and employee facing applications take a back seat compared to those that are customer facing.
When we build customer facing solutions, we prioritise convenience and ease of use because we strive to simplify complex tasks for our customers. We also place high importance on user interface and clean design, with the goal of creating an aesthetically pleasing experience for our customers. We know that in order to compete in the marketplace, we have to deliver a product that is both intuitive and attractive. An intuitive user experience makes the user feel empowered and creates a feeling of satisfaction while an attractive interface creates a feeling of trust, thus giving our brand credibility.
In reality, we should view our own internal company software from the same perspective as we view our customer facing products and aim to create experiences that are simple and intuitive for our employees just like we do for our customers. Our intent should be selfless - to empower employees, increase satisfaction and make their lives easier. This selfless intention will inevitably yield a number of results employers aim for, such as higher productivity, increase in efficiency, reduction in costs and better visibility and use of company data.
Software designed on the back of employee input creates a sense of empowerment and results in higher productivity. The important thing to note is that real information is in the hands of those that do the actual work, so this should be our source of input. It is these very users that are able to identify tasks which take up a lot of time and cause frustration, yet can easily be automated. These users are typically on the front line and closest to actual service delivery and are able to suggest features to produce needed results. Sometimes, just adding a field that helps the accounting team track certain statuses in the CRM would cut down on manual work and reduce account delinquency. The point is, only those working in the accounting team are able to pass on this feedback. When we seek information from employees, we are getting real and valuable feedback to improve and simplify workflow. In return, they feel a sense of importance and when we implement their suggestions, it creates a sense of purpose. The sense of value gained from the experience along with the actual solution created are what drives higher productivity.
While it is not easy to migrate away from legacy software, companies who are looking to do this are somewhat at an advantage because they have concrete metrics to base their analysis on, identify inefficiencies and map out improvements. Quantitative data such as the number of clicks and time spent on tasks, number of errors, problems encountered and number of users encountering problems, reveal which areas need improvement. We can also look into what external tools and applications our employees resort to using in order to make their jobs easier and incorporate important elements of those tools into our custom solutions. Again, we will get real answers by looking within and analysing behavior of those who are at the source of the task. The goal is to come up with a streamlined process accounting for all departments across the company, eliminate duplication of tasks, reduce manual work, include important data fields that will enable quick and relevant reporting.
By automating time consuming tasks, streamlining operations and improving user experience we are able to shrink the overall cost of running the business and can achieve meaningful savings over time. Creating a user centered company-wide solution also reduces training time and support costs.
Employees are known to be creative with getting around outdated legacy software and manipulating parts of the process, just to push the transaction through. How many times have you entered dummy information into a system, just to get to the next page? We also often omit important information because our systems cannot capture it. Taking these shortcuts may result in a completed job, but the byproduct is a loss of valuable data and true insight for the company. In the age of big data where companies pay for information, the last thing we want is to discard valuable data because our systems could not store it. We need to capture key data - which may vary by department, and make it easily accessible. Each department should be able to quickly extract data that is relevant for their use, in a format that is meaningful for them.
Again, our goal should be to empower employees, increase satisfaction and make their lives easier. This can only be achieved by designing an intuitive, meaningful, user-centered enterprise solution. Although critical for our products, user experience and interface investments should not be reserved for customer facing solutions only. The digital age and products we love to use every day (the likes of Google, Uber, AirBnB) have set the bar high and shaped expectations of great user experience. Our internal software has to live up to these standards in order to meet the expectations of its users.