Memo to Enterprise Software Suppliers: Users Need Help

Dennis Byron

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:

  • My organization's new enterprise software requires the same amount of training as when I get into a rental car of make/model I've never driven before, or use a TV in a hotel room, or walk up to an ATM or POS terminal.
  • My organization's new enterprise software is not as difficult to use as someone else's DVR, a new cell phone, or a digital camera

(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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 29, 2008 6:54 PM Wayne Byrne Wayne Byrne  says:
I completely agree, enterprise software is far to hard to use and one of the main reasons for this is because it doesn't work the way people want to.If a programmer 4 levels removed from the end users needs builds an app then its up the trainers to bridge that gap by essentially trying to make the users think like the programmer.This is another reason why software as it stands is dead and technologies that bring the users needs closer to the solution like www.geticeberg.com and web apps are starting to gain ground. Reply
May 31, 2008 12:24 PM Jim Blair Jim Blair  says:
I always find it comical running across articles like this from obviously seasoned vets. What I see... Is as a market persona trying to capitalize on functionality and features via vibrancy and hyper-wysiwyg gui interfaces sucking the processor power awa from what is needed most. + & -As human beings we interact with the world very dynamically but through a straw... Our own obersevations. If complexity of systems has been the avoidance in the past.... Why is it STILL the norm?It all boils down to this... As I played racquetball as a teen, one of my friends came out with ten wrist bands, high whites, $2K worth of goggles, tape, techno gadgets, shoes etc. He looked ready to take on mcenroe, alzado and tyson at once... He got clocked every time by everyone who stepped on the court!!! LOL Great Guy though!It's not what it does but what they make you believe it does. Once it's sold... It's now your issue!!!!!!!!!The paradox of training is that wall street or... US demand performance growth for our portfolios yet scrape the public company to sox, compliance, media and off shoring to 10th world countries expecting someone to understand. Make it simple buuuuuuut.... Make it do everything that I need and all my customers, employees, partners, kids, friends, families and pets need it to do. And I can only pay $10 for it because.... My company needs to look like it has a 2000% NET GAAP performa that can only be achieved if we do not pay for anything but demand everything and convince our customers to pay the most for exactly what i can't pay for myself?????????????By off-shoring all coding to adapt to backend com you get culturally unsound approaches that we as Americans demand.WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT WE WANT... HOW CAN WE EXPECT A CULTURE WITH 10 TIMES MORE HISTORY AND REFINEMENT TO UNDERSTAND OUR MADNESS OF REASONING!!!!Logic Gate: If 2 apples work together doing 100% of the work load ...will the main work load goal be achieved in half the time? American Answer: What kind of apple is it?Indian Answer: Thank you for your question but please help me understand why you are using apples to work towards a goal when you can use other types of fruit that are much stronger with the ability to generate more power.Chinese Answer: What the...German answer: Wow!Ms Teen America: Depends on the map we useSO. The enterprise guys like oracle, ibm, sap and sometimes ms do infact invest resources and seriously consider the end users gui harmony but it actually starts with the user, the company and potential partner stepping to the plate and clicking on the little help button or just learn how to achieve what they are looking to do... If in fact they know.software and hardware is hammer and a nail. you can do a million things with the combo but if you never choose to learn how to use the tools... it never really works the way it should.How many times have you hit your thumb ? Reply

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