A Web site called trainingzone.co.uk has pointed me to an IFS research study that should get you thinking about one of the key characteristics of your next generation of enterprise software -- amount of training required. The IFS research, whatever its pedigree, tells me that all enterprise software suppliers are doing a very poor job when it comes to ease of use.
The right answer to the question, "How much training does your enterprise software require?" should be:
(I am accepting nominations throughout the month of June for examples of ease of use and degree of difficulty when it comes to common consumer goods. These examples can act as a benchmark for enterprise software suppliers. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.)
The IFS findings seem to have merit despite the fact that the survey results themselves are not available on the IFS site, and you should always question any market research sponsored by a particular company with a particular sales/marketing agenda. In this case, IFS claims -- naturally -- that it offers a reduced "amount of training required" as compared to its competitors.
That doesn't mean the statistics aren't accurate and that the goal of easier-to-use enterprise software isn't lofty. The jist of the findings is that users want enterprise software that works like Web and e-mail applications. Particularly, according to the press release, the survey said:
"over a third of respondents identified the web as providing the most intuitive user experience. Only 1 in 5 cited business applications used in the workplace as easy to use -- well behind the web and email applications (27%)."
But that means to me that nearly two-thirds of users, in the best case, think software of all kinds is not intuitive. More than 70 percent of users think e-mail is somewhat difficult to use. Maybe there are very few of us left who realize that c.c. stands for carbon copy (and that carbon in this case has nothing to do with global warming). Four out of five think business applications are not easy to use.
I am trying to get some methodology information from IFS because the really scary possibility is that the company only surveyed the 10 percent or so of people in organizations that regularly use enterprise software and did not ask the rest of the organization what they think. Update to follow if merited.