How user-centric design became key to business applications
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How user-centric design became key to business applications

April 2012
IT departments need to up their software game and provide an app-like experience to business users, warns Saperion leader Herbert Lörch.

CIOs today have to provide fast, flexible solutions to their organizations while always being mindful of totalcost of ownership (TCO). While IT departments used to deliver systems and then the business worked out how to use them, today’s business departments state what they need and IT has to respond. I have seen many big businesses invest millions in powerful, expensive software that they have subsequently never used because it is too complicated and not flexible enough, resulting in poor user acceptance. IT leaders have a duty to ensure that this kind of disaster is a thing of the past.

Users’ expectations are increasingly high — and a lot of that is being driven by the cloud. In their private lives, people demand well-designed products that are intuitive to use, such as Facebook or Dropbox, and now expect the same simple functionality 
in the business world. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, which quickly connect to cloud services, people also expect access to their information anywhere and on any device.

Therefore, one of the keys to ensuring that the TCO of a software solution is kept to a minimum, while simultaneously driving maximum user acceptance, is to create well-designed business apps with the user firmly in mind. These applications should be so easy to use that they require little or no training, and also be flexible yet robust. The main business benefits of this are speed of rollout, greatly increased productivity among users, and the ability to quickly add users, for example after an M&A or international expansion.

At Saperion, we deployed an invoice approval system for Henkel [the €15 billion packaged goods maker], involving 35,000 users in 50 countries. We had to deliver this in five months. That kind of speed is only possible if the software is intuitive, requires no training, and is delivered as a service via the cloud.

We use the same system in our own business. My CFO uses his iPad to check invoices when he is out of the office: He can approve or reject them and add notes, with everything fully integrated into the company workflow.

Herbert Lörch is CEO of Saperion AG, the specialist in enterprise content management and business process management software. The Berlin-based company counts Daimler, Schenker, ATOS, Henkel, Gazprom and Vodafone among its almost 3,000 enterprise customers.
First published April 2012
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