Procurement software – the importance of Usability

We’ve published  another new research paper that you can download (free on registration) here. It’s titled:

“ What Does Usability Really Mean? Making Software Selection Decisions and Getting Behind the Rhetoric”.

In it, we’ve looked closely at the very topical angle of “usability” in terms of business software, particularly that of interest to the procurement community.  These days, consumer applications are so intuitive that users don’t think of them consciously as “software.” Ordering goods online; checking train schedules from a smart phone; using social media applications like Twitter or Facebook – they’ve all become regular and intuitive events.

So you can understand why pretty much every announcement we see now from a B2B software firm talks about how easy it is to use the product. The model for business software is no longer SAP or Oracle – it is Amazon, Facebook or eBay. Making things really easy for the user is the goal of every firm it seems. And that’s great – one of the reasons why procurement related software has often seemed a disappointment has been its lack of user friendliness. That has led in turn to poor adoption or compliance, and has done little for the reputation of procurement amongst a frustrated user community in many organisations!

Usability is therefore undoubtedly a Good Thing. However, in this paper, we have struck a few warning notes. “You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig” as US politicians are fond of saying. It’s not that difficult these days to make the most visible elements of the user interface look attractive and fairly simple to use. But what lies beneath the surface may be very different.

Is the user experience consistently good, not just for the most basic processes? How easy is to configure the software and make changes to permissions, approval routings or key screens? In an eProcurement context, usability is about more than simply a decent catalogue with nice pictures. And how does it look and feel to the supplier? Is the experience of working with the software easy for them?

Assuming usability is something you’re concerned about in terms of your procurement software, (and you should be), then you need to dig into what it really means and how that sexy looking product will really be like to live with on a day to day basis. So we’ll get to those questions and more in this paper, which is sponsored by Coupa but written (as is the case for all of our papers) from an independent perspective.

We’ll feature a couple of extracts from the paper over the next few days – but do download the whole thing here.

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Voices (5)

  1. bitter and twisted:

    Problem is you can’t really judge usabililty until you start using the damn thing.

    The learning curve may be misleading – browsing and ordering an item might be simple for civilians – but ordering a hundred could be a pig.

  2. David:

    One little nitpick: “It’s not that difficult these days to make the most visible elements of the user interface look attractive and fairly simple to use”.

    Good UX takes time and skill, great UX takes even more time and skill. A common misconception in the B2B world is that this stuff is easy.

    1. Peter Smith:

      Point taken, and yes, you’re right in that I’ve never tried to do it myself!
      Thanks for the comment

  3. Bryan Lindenskjold:

    It surprises me, that we in 2013 still have report stressing the urgency of usability. This is a must and if a supplier of a system today can’t delivery on this, they are dinosaurs. The reasons that’s the other supplier are running from them are they are living in 2013, listening to their customers and delivering on their demand.

    For that, who needs a report?

  4. Market Dojo:

    We see ‘easy to use’ as one of the principal foundations for any SaaS product. It is understanding the most efficient process and wrapping it up in its most ergonomic design. This can only be improved though by studying the end users (and support calls) to understand how to make their lives easier. Adoption is the key. Would it not be great to have other users in your organisation say “Can I have that?”, rather than, “I hope they don’t roll that out here!” (Exert from our blog “Bringing benefits to the end user”, This would be the real test, do the users actually want to use the software? Then you know you have got it right.

    Looking forward to reading the paper!

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