UX might typically be seen as a worthy investment only in the case of public or consumer facing products. Tools designed for internal use, such as a proprietary trading tool used by brokers or logistics software used by employees who work for a shipping company, aren’t necessarily facing the same type of competition that consumer-facing products are.
If an organization wants to attract smart and capable new talent, mandates that employees use an archaic tool that is neither mobile friendly or intuitive, and still wants them to be more productive, then that organization will need to start reconsidering the overall experience and what it means to their bottom line.
As a UX designer who has worked with his fair share of internal tools within large enterprise organizations, I can confidently say that this belief is both short sighted and fails to see the long-term benefits.
Considering UX a “nice to have” for internal products will hurt the company from the inside out. It means there are missed opportunities such as increased productivity, efficiency, and overall system integrations, which can result in significant, cost savings.
Let’s take a look at three key ways that UX can directly benefit internal products and the people that use them.
Reduce training requirements
Determining the right amount of training for a new employee is something many organizations struggle with. If a product is designed intuitively, and with the needs of the users’ context in mind, then training is hopefully redundant. Designing a tool with the user in mind might involve a larger investment in the tool upfront. But the long-term gains make all the difference. Everybody wins.
If training takes less time, than your employees can get to work faster. In organizations that experience high turnover, it’s especially ideal to have intuitive and friendly tools available that are easy and quick to learn.
Reducing errors and associated costs
When tools are designed properly, they empower users to complete a task quickly and easily. When they are not, they open the door for human error. While working for a large financial institution, I observed that system based errors ate up massive amounts of time. Actual meetings were held to discuss Error Rates, teams were required to have daily discussions about errors made, and adjust their workflow to prevent errors from happening in the future. Input errors made because of a small data entry mistake in a software tool could potentially result in the loss of thousands of dollars. Then of course the consequences of a client catching an error, which could result in damage to the brand’s credibility.
To expect a tool to essentially ensure no errors are ever made is unrealistic, but if a tool is more carefully designed to ensure such errors can be easily caught or eliminated altogether could result in a drastic reduction in these types of errors.
Design recommendations that would come out of a UX research phase would easily be able to identify specific features and requirements that could help safeguard against these errors and create a product that works for the end users.
Internal-facing products are not immune from competition. In my years of experience I’ve seen that even in cases when there are not necessarily direct competitors to a tool, there are will always be something else that will compete for an employee’s time and attention.
A perfect example of this is email. A team of developers may spend months getting the messaging system in your tool up and running but that doesn’t mean you won’t face resistance from users who simply want to continue using email. Since they are spending less time in the tool and more time in their email client, this will ultimately result in a longer path to overall adoption.
Fear and an unwillingness to change is the worst barrier most internal tools face when they are first introduced. And while you can threaten employees with consequences if they fail to use the new tool, wouldn’t it be better if they wanted to use the new tool because it was superior to their old process?
Providing a purposeful, well thought out experience –a design informed by your users will help combat the unwillingness to change by providing clear benefits and quickly allowing them to forget the old ways of doing work.
Empower your workforce and they will empower you
Ensuring UX is part of product development benefits everyone. Employees will be happier and more productive because the tool empowers them. Aside from the cost savings highlighted above, this impact promises to positively contribute to the financials and the overall growth and success of any sized Enterprise.
We can make Enterprise beautiful! The benefits of delightful, useful products that run our businesses and used by working folks nine hours a day, every day are endless. After all, cool consumer products have raised popular expectations to demand higher quality UX –even at the office. Oh, and sales will love it too!