Without Usability, Advanced Functionality Doesn't Matter. Just Ask Your Avon Lady.

Be careful when choosing your business software. If it's not as easy as what your people have at home, they might not use it.

Monday, November 23, 2015
BY: Betina Nygaard, CEO Scanmarket A/S

There's been much talk in software circles over the past few years comparing the difficulty of business technology processes to the ease with which we buy, sell and interact in our personal lives. Sites like Amazon, Facebook and online banking have made ease-of-use a core part of their strategy. Sadly, the same cannot be said for most of the big software companies that are providers to large organizations.

Too often, the typical software sales and selection process involves checking off a long list of functionality requirements rather than finding a solution that your people will actually use. Once that's done, it is off to implementation fun and concepts like change management and training are typically the first to fall off the list when budgets get tight. Most of us have an experience in our careers of a software implementation "gone wrong".

A telling recent example is Avon Company's cancellation of a $125mm implementation of SAP (WSJ 11 Dec 2013 "Avon's Failed SAP Implementation Reflects Rise of Usability"). The system was designed to be so complex that the front line personnel couldn't use it. Most likely, the software "worked as designed" but so much was built into the solution to comply with management and reporting requirements that sales reps weren't willing to adopt: "…it was so burdensome and disruptive to the representatives' daily routine that they left in meaningful numbers."

The moral of the story is well-stated in the WSJ article, "People who are accustomed to using simple, well-designed applications in their personal lives have no patience for disappointing technology at work."

You can only get a return from a software investment if your people use it. They will only use it if it's easy, proven and gets results.