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The Growing Importance of User Experience in the Enterprise

By Kevin Dodson

There has been a paradigm shift happening in enterprises across all industries. The traditional “bottoms up” approach that enterprise IT has taken in implementing new technology solutions is on its way out. Until recently, the decisions of an IT department became what was available to employees, and it was likely the best available in the marketplace. Many of us fondly remember driving home to show our kids the cool new Blackberry we received from work. Well, those days are gone.

Now, the best technology is most likely at home and your kids are showing you how to use it.  You are now driving to work and telling your IT staff that you want to use your new iPad, iPhone or Android device. This “top down” approach to implementing new technology solutions in the enterprise is often referenced as the consumerization of the enterprise.

At the core of this consumerization of the enterprise revolution is user experience – you’re asking to use your iPad at work because it’s easy to use. The only reason you use the systems at work is because your job depends on it. If you weren’t forced to execute expense reports with scanners, scissors and tape, and instead could execute it faster with an iPhone app, you would likely spend a little more time doing your job. And you might even enter information into your CRM system more frequently if you could do it from your iPad.

A rich user experience is no longer an option when it comes to implementing any new technology solution within your enterprise and here are the reasons why….

1. Increase User Satisfaction – How many times have you heard, “our sales team, managers [insert group here] is not using a new system because it’s not easy to use,” or “the users hate using the application because it’s hard to do anything with it”? The more time you spend at the beginning of a project making sure there is a rich user experience, the more user satisfaction will increase.

2. Increase User Adoption – I come from the consumer market, building desktop and mobile applications for anyone who would buy it. Our highest levels of adoption were realized when people opted-in to use our solution. This is also true for the enterprise – people will use an application more often if they like the experience, regardless of how much pressure their employer puts on them to use it. Focusing on a consumer-like user experience, even for enterprise applications, can dramatically increase user adoption.

3. Lower Training Costs – If someone finds an application valuable and easy to use, they will likely make use of it often. It’s safe to bet that many people use their personal tablet or phone more often that their company’s CRM system (if the two aren’t interchangeable).  At Appirio, we’ve found that companies with successful implementations spend roughly 25% of their implementation costs on delivering user adoption (training, communications, change management). Larger implementations can spend spend roughly 30-35 percent on user adoption. Spending time at the beginning of a project on the user experience can lower these costs.  No one trained you to use Google, Craigslist or CNN.com. Think about it.

4. Increase in Productivity – Do not let technology get in the way of the user. A salesperson, physician, investment advisor, or whatever the role, does not want technology to slow them down. Making applications unique to the user’s job will increase productivity as well as their effectiveness.

5. Decrease in Support Cost - Prior to coming to Appirio, I worked on a project within the healthcare industry that boasted significantly lower support costs due to a user-focused solution. We selected iOS as the core operating system and built role-based applications within salesforce.com for the organization. As a result, the savings from the lower support costs more than paid for the entire new adoption of iOS and user-focused application.

The Consumerization of the Enterprise is happening and it brings great value to an organization. Focus on your user first and you will have more successful project launches in your future. What other benefits have you seen from a keener focus on the user experience when it comes to enterprise apps? Looking forward to your responses below.

Kevin Dodson helps lead the mobile practice at Appirio. He enjoys evaluating and managing new initiatives and brings extensive UI experience in the health care and high tech industries. kdodson@appirio.com

About Appirio

Appirio

Appirio is a global cloud consultancy that helps customers achieve results in weeks, not years by harnessing the power of the world’s top talent. Appirio’s 600,000 member [topcoder] community and crowdsourcing platform, combined with the company’s business and technical expertise, have helped 700+ enterprises confidently use technology to increase innovation and transform business. Founded in 2006, Appirio is a trusted partner to companies such as Apria, Coca-Cola, eBay, Facebook, Japan Post Network, L’Oreal, NetApp, The Four Seasons and Virgin America.

One Response to The Growing Importance of User Experience in the Enterprise

I really enjoyed reading your article and I completely agree with it. The only thing I can add to it is that as far as benefits go, you should also mention the positive effects for enterprise IT. I have been told that just the opportunity to finally work on something ‘cool’ brings a lot of energy and renewed focus to the IT staff. I would expect this to translate into higher productivity and reduced staff turn-over though I do not have the numbers to back this up.

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