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When it comes to enterprise software purchases, several scenarios exist and often the buyer is not the one who will actually use the technology. This can cause all sorts of issues for the end user – but user experience professionals can help ease the pain.

  1. The end user is the consumer who purchases their own software, after doing whatever research they do in order to make the decision, whether for themselves or while working for a company that approves the purchase.
  2. The CFO for a company is pitched on a software solution, or seeks out vendors to solve a problem.
  3. The IT department initiates a software purchase, gets approval for however many users, and buys and deploys it.
  4. The IT department IS the user, in the case of purchasing security software or something they will use for the organization. But even in this case, sometimes a senior IT leader makes the purchase and a junior employee is expected to use it.

The problem with this as you can see, is that in only one or two instances, is the buyer the same as the user. And this can cause all sorts of issues for the user.

As user experience professionals, we have to be cognizant of this during the planning and development stages. In a given company, there may not be anyone else but you that studies human factors, user psychology or thinks through the user’s experience and so you have to broaden the scope to think about these scenarios if you work on enterprise-level or intranet software.

The end user does not have control over the CFO selecting something due to cost savings, or IT having a preference of one vendor over another despite usability issues. Plus there are always marketing folks or customer service people who drive digital transformation (or have to adapt to it) and by the time the user is in front of the software or new technology they are expected to derive benefit from, their needs are probably the last to be considered.

Here’s a scary quote from an interesting article about the CFO’s challenges in an increasingly digital world…

Based on its research, Genpact has found that companies are wasting nearly $400 billion per year on digital initiatives that do not generate the expected return on investment. This is largely because digital technologies are adopted sporadically and at different interfaces of the business rather than holistically and end to end.

In another interesting article, Tracy Currie says emphatically, “IT Should Drive Decision Making, Not Just Participate.” Fair point, but you have to take into account the reality of human factors once again. The CFO of a Fortune 1000 may have friends in high places that lead him to spend money with one company over another (nepotism, favoritism, competitive strategy, stakeholder pressure… lots of unknown factors can affect these decisions.) And then you have to think about the IT department themselves – isn’t one of the stereotypical complaints that they don’t listen to users who need help or want to make changes to the tools they use?

So how can we help fix this hot mess, as mere user experience minions?

I know, by now it just all seems hopeless and we should leave work early and get a latte… but don’t give up hope! If we can’t resolve the root problem, we can make things a bit smoother as users transition into using our (potentially unwanted) software that we worked so darned hard on. 🙂

 Have honest conversations with your team about this issue.

When you are sitting down in the formative stages of software design, redesign or adding significant features, bring this issue up. After everyone stares blankly at you for a moment, they will realize this is a topic you should all brainstorm solutions for.

 Think about the user on-boarding.

What is the journey from someone else (C-level executive, IT, your boss, etc.) purchasing software you have to use for your job? Do a storyboard or journey map and put yourself in the shoes of the purchaser and the user and fill in this gap with educated expectations.

 Do a field study.

If you have software in the market you can use to study the reality of this type of scenario, go on-site and observe the process from delivery of the product to the end user launching it for the first time to use it. Then go back to the office and talk to your team about things you can do to make the experience better if there were issues.

 Get your Getting Started process tight and right.

You do have a getting started process right? A tour, a guide, a video, some documentation… something to help the user get up and going quickly? It is going to be more important than ever, because you have to make the assumption the user has never seen or heard of your product.

 Consistent taxonomy is key.

The language used in marketing materials and on-screen and in documentation will make conversations between the purchasers and the end users less problematic and is something you should be pushing for with the product marketing and marcom departments anyway. YOU are the user advocate. It is your job to stand up for continuity in the flow of a user’s journey, which covers from pre-sale/first mention to post-sale and customer support all the way through to cancellation of product or service. Own the experience. If you don’t technically own it, work your persuasive magic to get everyone else who affects it on the same page.

 Customer support is mission critical.

Look, I’m not going to mince words: the statistics and analytics are not on your side when it comes to enterprise-level software failures. A lot of money and time is wasted on software that ultimately is not used. You must push your team and organization for good customer support in the super -fragile period of deployment and initial use. Make sure that there is a searchable knowledge base, customer chat, phone or email clearly available, customer discussion forums where users can help other users, downloadable steps or online videos…something helpful. This is an area where your company should spend money to save customers, and if they don’t, keep fighting the good fight (tactfully of course), to help them improve.

 Educate designers, developers, marketers, and other stakeholders.

The only one who may be thinking about this sort of user experience dilemma is you. So perk up your ears. Listen for signs that people in the company may not get how important this is. Help to educate them so they can think these issues randomly while running or mowing the lawn. Open people’s eyes. Make a presentation (maybe of your field study results) and host a Lunch & Learn where interested folks in the company can come and hear about what it takes to really get started, from your in-the-trenches research. Everyone will benefit!

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