FRAMINGHAM, 20 MAY 2008 - A recent survey found that the majority of end users (60 percent) find enterprise applications somewhat difficult, very difficult or almost impossible to use, hampering employee productivity.
The study was conducted by IFS, a business software vendor based in Sweden, with customers in 23 countries. The company polled more than a 1000 end users at mid-market companies (companies with revenue ranging from US$100 million to $1 billion). While many were users of IFS software, the company reported some had not used it before.
The study sought to define what the word usability meant to end users. Nearly 50 percent said usability means software that helps them do their job better and faster. Others said usability means "no need to read the manual" (24 percent), "looks like familiar products" (13 percent), and "fits the way I work" (14 percent).
"The trick for us vendors is to make applications that live up to these expectations," says Rick Veague, CTO for IFS North America. "It can't just look cute; it has to help them do their job."
The issue of usability has often caused end users to seek out technology in the consumer space. A recent CIO consumer technology survey found nine technologies in the consumer space that end users had gravitated towards, often in response to enterprise software failing them.
Of the time wasters presented by enterprise software, many different categories plagued end users: navigating between and around applications (11 percent), difficulties in searching and navigating through the application (19 percent), learning different modules (21 percent), transferring data between apps (14 percent), progressing via ungrouped functions (14 percent), application "doesn't work the way I'd like" (7 percent), and waiting/slow response (8 percent). Only 6 percent reported that their enterprise applications didn't waste any time.
Another category the study measured was what types of applications people found "most usable." Garnering the largest tally was Web-based applications (34 percent), while these categories trailed: PC/Outlook (27 percent), business applications (20 percent), word processors (17 percent), and "other" (2 percent).
Not all business applications presented users with difficulty. Respondents said 9 percent of their company's business applications were easy to use, while they found 33 percent somewhat easy to use. But the largest percentage of apps are too complex, say users. Respondents found 43 percent of business software somewhat difficult to use, 14 percent very difficult to use, and 1 percent extremely difficult.
Almost 90 percent of respondents agreed strongly or somewhat that applications that aid collaboration were of top interest.
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