Software usability – why all the fuss?

Our new research paper “ What Does Usability Really Mean? Making Software Selection Decisions and Getting Behind the Rhetoric” can be downloaded (free on registration) here. It considers the very topical angle of “usability” in terms of business software, particularly that of interest to the procurement community. The paper is sponsored by Coupa but written (as is the case for all of our papers) from an independent perspective.

Here’s an extract to whet your appetite. In this excerpt, we’re looking at just why usability is something procurement should be concerned about .


Usability for procurement – why all the fuss?

Usability of procurement technology has become a hot topic. That's not surprising. For too long, procurement imposed unfriendly, difficult to use technology on an unwilling and ungrateful user audience. Legacy procurement technologies required  multiple days of training just to get users comfortable with placing a requisition. (And not everything has changed – the project manager for a major corporate ERP implementation spoke recently of a planned a 9-12 months training programme for users).

The negatives for the organization, and for the procurement function, were and still are considerable. Adoption of the new systems and processes will be slower, if staff are unwilling because of the effort involved, or simply because of the time taken for implementation, training and ramp-up of live operation. And that is often not factored into business cases (see the “cost” section later).

If using a system is difficult and takes time that the user feels would be better spent elsewhere, then achieving full utilization can prove difficult. That is likely then to have a knock-on effect on compliance to corporate purchasing agreements, for instance. If it is easier not to use the system than use it, people will find their own way to make purchases they need outside the approved, negotiated contract, resulting in lost savings opportunities.

A further consequence is that the reputation of procurement (and finance if this is perceived as coming from a wider ERP implementation) suffers. The function is seen as a blocker, increasing workload and hassle for the user. That can have knock-on effects for procurement in many ways, not least the personal reputation of senior functional executives and their perceived value to the organization.

It is hard to convince top management that procurement is a true strategic, value-adding function if their personal experience of day-to-day buying is inefficient and unfriendly”.

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