What comes to mind when you hear enterprise software? Typically it’s something dinosaur-like, hard-to-use, and unattractive. It conjures up images of black-screen terminals deep in a labyrinth of cubicles, freezing frequently and getting in the way more than helping.
The Tectonic Shift Around Us
Our mental model of enterprise software stands in stark contrast to the way we buy things over Amazon or text with our friends with a sleek iPhone. Enterprise software companies, for decades, did not design their products with the end user in mind. Instead they built products top-down to meet business requirements.
But that’s all starting to change. We’re at the midst of a revolution: the consumerization of enterprise software. Cloud-based, customer-centric products are rapidly becoming the norm. Organizations that don’t make the switch are getting left behind. At the core of this trend is the emergence of User Experience as a critical part of developing, buying, and interacting with software. User Experience (termed UX after this) refers to a person’s emotions and attitudes about using a particular product, system or service.
Procurement software is caught in the middle of these shifting tectonic plates. Many of the existing solutions on the market are from over a decade ago. They suffer from outdated design that’s typical of enterprise software. We’re already seeing massive changes in the user experience and quality of the technologies available to procurement professionals. In these times of change, how do you know where your current tools stand in terms of procurement software UX?
Symptoms You May Feel
The pain of bad UX manifests itself in different ways for different people. This is especially relevant in procurement because it affects so many different teams in an organization. Ultimately, it impacts everyone and underlies all of the core activities.
For procurement professionals, you may realize that you’re spending more time on busy work and data entry than you are on strategic thinking. You recognize how much you’re on the phone with internal stakeholders explaining, again, how to write up RFP documents, how the rules work, or how to get the right approvals. And you’re tired of feeling like the enemy or enforcer. Ultimately you want to help add value and be a strategic partner, not a gatekeeper.
For internal stakeholders, you may be avoiding doing that RFP because of the lengthy timelines and confusing processes. You’re not an expert in procurement. You just need to get through it, and feel like you frequently need to ask for help or lose track of what the next steps are. It’s exhausting to worry about long checklists, compliance requirements, and countless layers of approval that you’re not familiar with.
For legal teams, it’s frustrating to have to go over procurement documents with a fine-toothed comb, unsure if the author actually used the most current template and didn’t change any critical information. Most of all, small changes can result in compliance errors and even lawsuits.
Example of User-Friendly Software
These problems are largely solvable through more usable, intuitive, and helpful software. The appropriate application of technology dramatically changes the way all the main stakeholder groups think and feel about procurement.
Let’s take an example from the City of Boston, which you can read more about in a case study here. The main symptoms felt by internal stakeholders were frustration with the length of the RFP process and confusion because of the complexity of it. Boston partnered with Govlist to implement a guided RFP-writing tool that automated away the complexity of the templates and processes. They rolled it out side-by-side with a legacy procurement system.
The results were clear. To quote the City’s assigned researcher, “the users I worked with expressed overwhelmingly positive feedback, saying it ‘reduced the angst’ associated with writing RFPs.” It made the process “more efficient, more clear, and a lot less painful.” By improving the UX in their procurement technology, Boston ameliorated the concerns and pain points of their internal stakeholders.
Adopting modern, cloud-based procurement software really does matter. As a result, it can drive better adoption rates, speed up procurement cycles, reduce anxiety, and eliminate busy-work. Those kind of results make everyone happy.