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Giving enterprise software a social makeover attracts users

John Moore | April 17, 2013
When it comes to developing enterprise applications, organizations are increasingly realizing that user experience is as important as functionality. In response, vendors are taking a more agile approach to building those apps in order to better meet users' needs.

As Eckerle puts it, "we've taken a very different approach toward building a new product from scratch." For one, the Kona project has dedicated personnel for user research and UI/UX-roles missing on previous development products, he says.

Rob Stroud, vice president for service and portfolio management at CA Technologies, says the company spends a lot of development time these days on look and feel, the effective use of color and other user experience considerations.

Recent CA products reflect this thinking, he says. In February, for example, CA debuted Nimsoft Service Desk 7, an IT service management (ITSM) tool that incorporates elements of social media such as feeds and status updates.

The idea is to encourage end users to use the ITSM tool to request services or seek help with IT-related problems. "Making it simple and intuitive is a higher priority than functionality now," Stroud says.

How 'Lean UX' Can Improve Application Development

Functionality can take the back seat in light of incremental development. Here, organizations frequently release new software features instead of dumping a soup-to-nuts feature set on users all at once. Stroud suggests that this development tack lets software vendors focus on UI/UX, since they "don't have to add big chunks of capabilities at one time."

In another shift, vendors such as CA have increased the frequency of end-user validation, since user testing is central to tuning the user experience. With products such as Nimsoft Service Desk 7, CA conducts end user validation at the end of each sprint, according to Stroud. That works out to testing every 30 days or so, as opposed to the previous schedule of every 90 to 120 days.

The overall thrust is to make software that reduces the need for training.

"That's our fundamental objective now," Stroud says. "There's always going to be training involved...but we're really looking to reduce the level of education and training required by the consumer of the technology, so that they're immediately able to do the task and add value in their role."


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