C|Net’s News.com has an article about the poor usability of business applications. Having worked with a number of the application providers listed, and some other smaller vendors, this article does a great job at identifying the value of usability with these systems. The article also does a great job for external usability consultants and user experience designers by recommending that companies:
- Get outside help. Vendors should choose an accredited reviewer. The reviewer should follow a methodology focused on detailed design personas and perform lab an real-world testing.
The article has since started to concern me a little bit. I initially walked away thinking great this supports usability and usabiliity consulting. Maybe executives and project managers will consult 3rd party vendors and use a user-centered design and evaluation approach. I have a client that has installed a ERP system that has been deployed to about 50 internal employees. The usability of this system is extremely poor. The number of support calls has increased, the amount of overtime being worked has increased, the number of errors has increased. Pretty much every thing that could go wrong has gone wrong. I am working to evaluate the system from a user-centered approach, evaluating it’s fit to business requirements, conformity to user tasks, and general usability principles. I have also been working to understand the software architecture. The recommendation is to fix the bugs with the system, but to evaluate competitors and alternatives for all future development. I am concerned because this article may support the decision to stay with the existing vendor.
Staying with your existing vendor
The article provides fodder to stay with the existing vendor. It demonstrates that most other ERP solutions have similar problems to the ones that we are facing. Unfortunately, this is not correct, due to our user tasks/goals and the existing software architecture the current platform is not expected to meet the business goals. But convincing upper management of the need to replace a recently deployed system is now more difficult.