In my new role with Clear Software, I have been reacquainting myself with the enterprise software marketplace– all things ERP, CRM, etc. Through the course of this work, I have arrived at two seemingly inscrutable and inescapable issues in the enterprise software market. I’ll lay out my conclusions here but would really appreciate feedback from anyone with experience in this market!
Conclusion #1: There appears to be a negative correlation between a vendor’s ability to write great enterprise software and their ability to deliver great user interface/experience (UX/UI).
Companies that create an enterprise application, for example an ERP platform, have very smart people and approach business problems with specific structures such as General Ledger, Sales Orders, Purchase Orders, Databases, Audit Trails, Double Entry Bookkeeping, GAAP, etc. Because of this, these companies by their very nature are actually diametrically opposed to the kind of thinking that is required to design a UX/UI that reflects how actual business people do their jobs every day. Contrast your CRM/ERP screen(s) with an iPhone® or Facebook or Uber, or any other consumer experience. Consumer applications are doing incredibly complicated things behind the scenes but present a simple, intuitive experience for the user.
Conclusion #2: Almost everyone, especially the largest companies, will have multiple enterprise software vendors for the foreseeable future.
No matter how much consolidation goes on in the enterprise software space, how many companies can run their entire business with software from one vendor? I know it can be done in theory, and in some ways stack optimization may represent nirvana for a vendor and maybe a visionary tech leader. But how many companies are doing this right now? And I mean really doing it, not planning or thinking about doing it. Granted, I don’t have the biggest sample size, but I have personally asked around 100 companies in the past two months and only one company was willing to claim that they could. As a result, this means we are saddling a relatively large number of business users with multiple software systems and consequently, multiple UI’s. This is especially common in my last line of work, the contact center, where customer service reps frequently have many screens open at the same time. It is such a problem that the well-known “holy grail” of the contact center is the extraordinarily difficult “single agent desktop.” Is it even reasonable to ask one of your enterprise vendors to come up with a user interface that can incorporate a competitor’s products? If you agree with Conclusion #1, you can see the challenge here appears insurmountable.
To make matters worse, these two problems compound each other. In other words, it’s bad enough to saddle a business user with a complex UI, but asking them to use multiple complex UI’s results in all kinds of issues with job satisfaction, turnover, training, work efficiency, accuracy and customer satisfaction that quietly cost your company unbelievable amounts of money. And this doesn’t even account for the IT costs of all the software, consulting fees, custom code, and blood, sweat, and tears of trying to do the best they can to help the business folks.
I know these are only two of the many issues facing businesses today, but as long as we have jobs that require us to use enterprise software, there has to be a better way. Do you agree? Let me know what I am missing.
Spoiler alert: There indeed may be a better way, but that is the subject for another day and another blog post.