The days of ugly UI are in the past. The trend that started from website design, mobile UI and intuitive consumer application is coming to enterprise software. Users of enterprise software are also consumers and it is hard for them to tolerate bad user experience of software they work every day. Remember my old post – PLM: Ugly vs. Cool? I can see cool UI is coming to engineering space too. My prediction – user friendly interfaces and better user experience will become one of the top 3 factors that will influence PLM in 2015. I can see this trend is coming from leading software providers. I put few examples in my blog few days ago – PDM/PLM UI Makeup: new trend in user experience.
So, cool is going to win. However, here is the thing. Cool is very expensive. To design new experience and to re-work existing applications will take time and money. It won’t happen overnight. So before you make your existing PDM/PLM nicer by developing new web tools or switching to new web technologies, I’d recommend to make some ROI calculation. It will help you to prioritize your work and make your customers happy. Actually the last one is even more important than the money you spend on rework. From my experience customers are getting REALLY angry when vendors are selling an old application with new UI (lipstick on a pig).
How can you decide about what part of your enterprise application to change. To set up priority and calculate ROI is very important. Software developers are very often missing this part of running full speed to change user interface and develop new apps with nice colors, but … performing exactly in the same way as the old one.
There are two things to remember when you think about new UI and new user experience – scale and impact. You need to maximize both and avoid making changes in the part of application that will be exposed to smaller number users or rarely in use. My attention caught by a very interesting article – UX for enterprise by Jordan Koschei. Have a read – here is my favorite passage:
The sheer scale of enterprise clients magnifies the effects of good and bad design alike. Small inefficiencies in large organizations result in extra costs that are passed on to the end user in time spent, money lost, and frustration increased. Likewise, when an enterprise prioritizes user experience for its internal tools, it becomes a more effective organization; a recently released business index shows that design-driven companies outperformed the S&P average by 228% over the last ten years.
It led me to another article that gives a perfect sense of how to approach ROI calculation for UX improvements – Calculating ROI on UX & Usability Projects. It brings list of approaches that can be used for calculation – increased sale, increased productivity, increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, decrease training and support cost and few others. From my perspective, very often, development are focusing on customer satisfaction and loyalty. But, this is something that enormously hard to measure. Opposite to that, think about productivity: Here is my favorite passage from the article about that:
For example, if you optimize the UX on a series of screens so that what was once a 5 minute task is now a 2.5 minute task, then you’ve increased a person’s productivity by 100%. That’s huge. HUGE. If the company has 100 phone agents who have an average salary of $40,000 + benefits (~$8,000) (+ an unknown amount for overhead), you could either release or retask those agents on other activities with a savings of $2,4000,000/year. (half of 100 agents x $48,000)
It made me think more specifically about PDM and PLM use cases. What are the most critical, time consuming and repeatable scenarios? If I think about PDM, everything I do with documents – check-in, check-out, release, view, search is extremely time sensitive. If check-in operation takes 50 minutes and fails at the end, users will be very angry. To improve check-in operation is a very complex task. But if you can save 30% of time, it can result in huge saving. Let me think about PLM use case – ECO management process.It can be really complicated, requires to open multiple screens, browsing for information, making requests. Improvements of this experience, can have a huge impact on productivity. I’m sure, you can come with more scenarios, but I guess you got my idea.
What is my conclusion? Customers are looking for nice UI. This is not “nice to have” feature for them anymore. However, it comes down to much more than nice layout and pretty colors. It comes down to “user experience” in the way that can make life of users easier, save time and get job done with less clicks. PDM/PLM vendors must think about it before embarking into next development project of changing colors and font size in their existing apps. Just my thoughts…