Your employees are victims of badly designed software. Why and how to change that.

There was a time when many of us gained a confidence boost from being good at using difficult software because it made us feel we were ahead of our peers. That time is now ending. Today people are known to ‘love’ or ‘hate’ software based on how intuitive, easy-to-use and presentable they are.

For decades, software were plagued by bad, little or no design thinking. Within the last 10 years, the amount of emphasis placed on the design thinking behind the creation of consumer software has increased greatly. This rise has been driven largely by companies who came to realise that great digital experiences provide a competitive advantage when seeking to attract, delight and retain customers.

The same has not happened for enterprise software used by the employees of these same companies. Most enterprise software today are clunky, bloated, bursting with needless features and less than utilitarian at best. Basically people at work still have to deal with badly designed applications. B2C corporations spend a fortune building intuitive, usable software because they know it keeps them commercially competitive in the consumer market. Sadly the same can’t be said about the software provided to the people working behind the scenes. None of that matters because there is no commercial gain in doing this. Right? Well, the opposite is true.

So, why should your organisation bother to invest in providing well designed software to employees?

Increase adoption rate

People use software at work because it is essential in helping them do their job. Complexity of use and a lack of a human-friendly design are two of the factors responsible for low adoption and high churn rates. Regardless of the fact that people are paid to use software at work, it is in our nature to avoid things that we don’t understand. Badly designed software that is hard to master can make non-technical people feel like they are technologically backward. But there are very few scenarios where software should ever feel technical. User friendly software is helpful in its design. It gives the user clear and actionable cues as to what they need to do in order to fulfil a desired task. If you give your people software that they quickly find intuitive, they will easily want to start it up next time they need to perform the task for which it’s designed. Adoption rates go up, procrastination goes down.

Raise productivity

People tend to enjoy things they’re good at. Because user-centric software reduces complexity, users are empowered to get through their tasks more efficiently. Your staff will produce higher quality work in greater volumes. The simple reason is that good design keeps out of the way; acts as a less visible enabler letting the user get on with their goals for the day.

Lower (or eliminate) the learning curve

It will take a lot less time to master an intuitive software because many of its action cues will feel natural. Whatever doesn’t feel natural can be learned without spending unending hours reading manuals, and attending lengthy, expensive workshops and training sessions. We all know people trail off after a while when these sessions get too long. In the end, learning is quicker and people start producing work much sooner.

Retain and nurture talent by delivering positive emotional value

Two words; Employer Branding. This is one of those things which shows that your organisation has an internally facing human face too — and not just a customer facing one. You’ll strengthen internal brand perception with employees and contribute to the increasingly important drive to retain the great pool of talent your company has worked hard to attract.

What can you do?

(Really) care about your staff

Far too many organisations say fancy things like ‘our staff are our most important assets’, but in reality lack the drive to back it up. In many cases, this is merely aspirational and only holds true inside the printed pages of the new joiners’ induction pack. When software vendors try to sell enterprise software to companies, the pitch often involves convincing senior technical executives within the buying organisation. While this is not a bad thing in itself, it does affect the narrative of the sales pitch. You often hear and see the vendor rightly focusing on important technical aspects such as rich product features and security. But too often nothing about the consideration given to the people who will spend parts of their working time using the software is mentioned. CIOs, CTOs and other senior executives who are responsible for procuring software meant for company-wide use can make gains for their organisation if they commit to buying software that are designed with enterprise users (and their context of use) in mind.

Let HR ‘sell’ procured software to employees

No one understands your customers more than your marketing team. They take the pain to present your offerings to customers in a light that makes its value shine. Your human resources organisation is best placed to do something similar with your people. Email shots that highlight the strong points of the newly procured software to be rolled out prepares employees for what’s to come. If presented right, it can generate excitement, set expectations and ensure decent adoption rates.

Create focus group(s)

Gather a small group of your employees together. Ensure their experience and tech savvy vary. Their purpose will be to trial a shortlist of competing software. You’ll be surprised by the truths that come to surface regarding the challenges involved when using the contending applications. Take the group’s feedback and factor it in when you make the decision on which to buy.

Bestselling isn’t necessarily best

Realise that the bestselling software on the market isn’t necessarily the best software on the market. Some products achieve market leader status, not due to brilliance, but because they were developed by large software companies with unlimited marketing budgets or have more key connections in high places than all their competitors.

One company’s employee is another company’s customer

The employee and the consumer are very often one and the same person, and the shift we’re now seeing in people’s mindset is that we’ve started comparing the efficiencies and good experiences we get from some of our consumer software to what we get once we step into the office building. Aiming to provide the tools that make people’s jobs that bit more seamless will create a happier, more collaborative and more productive workforce.

While people need to feel challenged by their jobs, the tools needed to deliver good work shouldn’t add to the challenge. Software should enable people surmount those challenges; its usage should not be a challenge in itself.

My night with Hans Zimmer in London

Earlier this year, during the Summer months I found a post on Empire Magazine's website saying legendary film composer Hans Zimmer would come to London to perform some of his best loved music from Hollywood feature films.

Fearing that seats would fly off really quickly (and they did), I booked my ticket on the same day I read that article. Hans wasn't coming for another 5 months or so and time, it seemed couldn't go fast enough. Finally, eventually, as always, the day arrived: October 10, 2014.

Getting to the Hammersmith Apollo and seeing the 'Hans Zimmer Revealed' marquee felt surreal, and I didn't believe I was actually about to experience this. It was a great event, totally up to the hype, and I hope Hans comes back again soon. I captured some of best moments using my phone, so enjoy the videos below.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Hans performing theme music from Pirates of the Caribbean - one of my best bits from the show!

'Time' from Inception

Time, from Inception is one of Hans' most popular scores - at least according to Spotify :-)

This song was actually not listed on the programme, and I was gutted to discover that. He actually came back after curtains had rolled to play Time, as a surprise bonus to the audience!


Music from Gladiator

More Pirates of the Caribbean

More from the Pirates of the Caribbean OST.

More from Gladiator

The Coliseum battle sequence from Gladiator.

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Finally, music from The Dark Knight trilogy.

Hope you enjoyed my collection.