WHY SOFTWARE IS SO HARD TO USE: HOW CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS CAN HELP

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1 loading... WHY SOFTWARE IS SO HARD TO USE: HOW CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS CAN HELP COPYRIGHT 2014

2 WHY SOFTWARE IS SO HARD TO USE: HOW CUSTOMIZED SOLUTIONS CAN HELP There are few things more frustrating than muddling through an application that s difficult to use. We ve all experienced it at some time or another. When you know what you want to do and you can t do it, you become so frustrated that you leave a website without accomplishing your task or walk away from your PC to avoid throwing something at it! This occurs with the everyday consumer, as well as for employees using internal software and is equally as frustrating. Inefficient internal, sometimes called back office applications, cost companies millions of dollars every year. Maybe an upgrade in the system causes you to add two extra steps when you pull a part from inventory, or maybe you avoid adding new clients because you have to enter the same information into three systems. All of those extra steps decrease productivity, increase cost, and may cause disgruntled employees to look elsewhere for jobs in companies that run more efficiently. Sometimes the system owner understands the application s issues but may not have the funds necessary to fix the problems. Other times, the system is an off-the-shelf package and the company is at the mercy of the application owner to fix the problems. When does that pain warrant change?

3 COOKIE-CUTTER APPROACH Website templates are a popular approach to building websites, and off-the-shelf software is frequently used for back office systems. Sometimes there are good reasons to go with a cookie-cutter approach. If your business follows standard processes, such as accounting, you may find that someone else has thought through the best way to perform the business process and created an automated system that works. Purchasing a package may be less expensive than creating a custom solution. However, sometimes choosing someone else s solution means that you re not solving your business challenges. WHY SOMEONE ELSE S SOLUTION DOESN T ALWAYS WORK. Cookie-cutter software often makes it easy to do daily work, but impossible to complete custom or one-off processes that are critical for many businesses. WHY YOUR UNIQUE PROBLEMS AREN T FIXED. When you purchase an off-the-shelf solution, you may expect to make a few changes here and there to make it exactly fit your business. However, changes may be difficult or impossible to complete without the help of expensive and inaccessible experts; therefore, your company may resort to time-consuming and inconvenient workarounds that are inefficient and don t address the root cause of the issue. Even worse, your team may begin to ignore problems, which generally compounds the issues. Your original challenges may not be addressed, and you may end up with some new ones. WHAT MAKES A SYSTEM HARD TO USE? Let s take a look at some of the common problems that people encounter with systems that are hard to use or don t work efficiently.

4 PROBLEM: NAVIGATION. System navigation is one of the biggest obstacles to a great user experience. If you can t get where you want to go from where you are, it s a problem. If the navigation is confusing, obscure or missing completely, your system may be causing your employees to create workarounds or spend time on unnecessary steps. Example: Your purchasing department spends a majority of the day creating purchase orders for new parts that are required by your company s R&D team. However, your company purchased a software package that was built to support a business focused on managing inventory. Your software makes it easy to create POs when a stock item s quantity falls below minimum inventory levels, but there isn t a menu option for Create PO for New Part, and it takes a dozen steps to create a PO when you re buying something for the first time. How to avoid the problem: Whether you re buying a package or designing a custom solution, first define your company s critical business processes. For the company in our example, buying new parts to support R&D is an important business process. Once you clearly define your business processes, it s easy to define detailed requirements for software that will support the way you do business. Use the requirements to test software packages before you buy. Don t ask your vendor to tell you whether the package will meet your requirements; workarounds like going to an inventory screen to create a PO may make perfect sense to the vendor, but will create many non-value-added steps for your purchasing department. If you re creating a custom application, use the requirements to drive the design and test deliverables. PROBLEM: INACCURATE INFORMATION. What makes people question the quality of their information? Sometimes a person realizes that printed copies of historical reports contain different data than reports generated today for the same period.

5 In other cases, people who use multiple systems find that sales, returns, or forecast numbers vary depending on the source system. Sometimes auditors ask for details about data, and you find that you can t get the supporting information you need out of your system. Example: Your system stores information about the quantity available for each part by keeping running total and storing details for each. This includes receiving and consumption activity. However, when reconciling your documents you ve discovered that the running totals are occasionally different than the details. Solution: Don t automatically panic if you see something suspicious. Many times what appear to be huge problems are actually small and quickly fixed issues with the way information is displaying on a report or screen. However, if your research uncovers real issues with the integrity or reliability of your data, you re facing a system nightmare. The best way to ensure data accuracy is systematic validation, especially when the system is new. If you re considering purchasing an out-ofthe-box application, ask the references your vendor provides about the reliability of the system s data. Be sure to review their social media sites for reviews and posts from frustrated system users. PROBLEM: TOO MANY ICONS. Too much is not enough does not apply to software. Cluttering a page with too many icons creates confusion, especially if the icons don t apply to the purpose of that particular page. Example: Your software package has a standard set of 30 icons that appear on every screen; however, only a few of the icons actually work on each page. Or some of the icons are for functions that are restricted based on a user s security, so they are not available to most users. A new system user with read-only access to customer information sees all 30 icons and tries to use them to add a new customer, copy and paste information, or delete a record, but none of the processes work, so he assumes he s doing something wrong or the system is broken.

6 Solution: If you re considering a package that uses valuable space on a screen to display icons that are not applicable to the page, you re justified in asking, What other inefficiencies am I going to find in this package? If you re designing a new custom application, be sure your requirements define the icons that will allow users to perform the necessary actions on each page. For custom software, you ll also have the ability to choose the image that will display on each icon; there are hundreds to choose from, and you should have the ability to select the ones that make sense to your business. PROBLEM: DUPLICATE RECORDS. Some systems allow users to add records at-will without screening for duplicate entries. As a result, hundreds or even thousands of replicas are created. A glutton of duplicate records leads to confusion, inaccuracy and unnecessary use of space. Example: Every time an order is placed with a vendor, the company name, part description or contact person is entered into the system as a new record. Even if the company already exists in the system, it may be a quicker process to create a new one rather than retrieving the old one, or it may be too difficult to find the existing record. Solution: Simplifying the process to find existing records eliminates confusion and duplicity. It improves accuracy and makes the entry task easier for the next user. PROBLEM: SYSTEM EXPECTS PERFECTION. Imperfect people are penalized for making mistakes. Example: Some systems require data to be entered right the first time. If it isn t, all fields are wiped clean, and the user has to start over. Other systems don t allow the user to go back and edit the entry later, so errors can t be fixed easily. Solution: Setting up a system that lets the user enter and edit the information at any point saves time and frustration. The ability to modify information increases accuracy and improves reliability.

7 CUSTOMIZATION COUNTS There are two ways that business owners can address the problem of a system that s hard to use. They can ignore the problem and hope it won t cost them too much time and money. Or they can fix the problem, which may involve bringing in someone who can research, analyze and recommend alternatives for remedying the problem. Finding a solution may require analysis of business processes, identification of requirements and evaluation of the current software solution against the requirements. Questions to ask include: Can we fix the current system? Are there other packages that would better meet our needs? If the answers to these questions are no, a custom solution may be required. IS CUSTOMIZED ALWAYS BETTER? When business needs are unique, an off-the-shelf software package may be too big, too small, or otherwise unable to achieve the company s requirements. Finding the right solution is critical to efficiency of time and cost. The dilemma of when to buy and when to build is a perplexing one that can be solved by considering a few factors. WHEN TO BUY. Some off-the-shelf systems meet the basic needs of doing business. There s no need to reinvent the wheel if you can find one that already fits. If there is one suitable and cost-effective, you should buy. WHEN TO BUILD. A system designed and built specifically for your company by a custom software development firm can give you a competitive edge. If it does, you should build. Choose an experienced and reputable company to create customized software applications that meet your needs and improve your capabilities. At DragonPoint Software, we work with businesses that need a solution that s uniquely designed to fit their requirements. Customized software isn t right for everybody, but if you can t find an off-the-shelf package that meets your requirements, a custom solution may be exactly the right fit for you.

8 ABOUT DRAGONPOINT SOFTWARE DragonPoint has been designing, developing and enhancing custom software for businesses for more than 25 years. Based in Florida, the firm works with companies all over the U.S. to create tailor-made solutions to meet their business needs. DragonPoint Software also develops custom applications to make existing software and processes better fit the user. To learn more about DragonPoint Software, visit dragonpoint.com. DON T LET THIS......HAPPEN TO YOU

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