Software So Easy a Business Person Can Use It?

Ann All

Back in October, a debate about enterprise software raged briefly throughout the blogosphere. Some folks said that enterprise software needed to be more user-friendly, like its consumer-oriented counterparts. Others said, in essence, business isn't supposed to be fun, so get over it.

As I've noted before, dissatisfaction with the clunkiness of enterprise software is a big reason why users, often surreptitiously, take IT into their own hands. If companies would bother to gather user input, which unfortunately many don't, they might put more thought into considerations like how easy -- or not -- it is to learn how to use new software or to navigate through applications.

Companies have a long way to go in satisfying users' software needs, based on a recent survey by Swedish software vendor IFS. According to a story about the survey, 60 percent of end users categorized business software as "somewhat difficult," "very difficult" or "almost impossible" to use.

Respondents said 43 percent of their company's applications are somewhat difficult to use, 14 percent are very difficult to use, and1 percent are extremely difficult to use. On a more positive note, they reported that 33 percent of their company's apps were somewhat easy to use and 9 percent were very easy to use.

Giving a boost to software-as-a-service, 34 percent found Web-based applications "most usable," followed by PC/Outlook (27 percent), business applications (20 percent), word processors (17 percent) and "other" (2 percent). The question that comes immediately to mind, of course, is how did respondents define "usable." Nearly 50 percent said it meant software that helped them do their jobs better and faster. Also mentioned: "no need to read the manual," 24 percent; "fits the way I work," 14 percent; and "looks like familiar products," 13 percent.

Respondents reported wasting a lot of time:

  • learning different modules, cited by 21 percent.
  • searching and navigating through an application, 19 percent.
  • transferring data between applications, 14 percent.

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