Any investment that a company makes in a new product or solution can only deliver its intended benefits if it's used - and embraced - across the organisation. While reluctant employees can avoid having to use some software solutions, when it comes to tools such as expense reporting, there isn’t really an option to sidestep it. You can either use the system and get reimbursed for your expenses, or not use the system, and not get reimbursed.
However, this doesn’t mean that an optimal user experience needs to be an afterthought in the software review process. In today’s competitive workplace environment, employers need to provide their employees with the best possible experience (especially those employees who contribute most to the organisation, such as sales executives). This can mean anything from creating welcoming, attractive, well-appointed offices, to offering competitive salary and benefits. More and more, it also means giving the team the best available tools that enable them to do their job effectively.
Forcing team members to use a cumbersome and unpopular solution isn’t in the best interests of the company or its employees, and just because a piece of software has full adoption across the organisation doesn’t render a project successful. Unhappy employees may complain among themselves, as well as those outside the company, and in today’s social media-driven world, poor employee user experiences can be damaging to a company’s recruiting efforts. Unhappy users also complain about the software to their managers, who will feed this back to the CIO or IT director, who will in turn raise these concerns with the project manager or whoever chose the solution.
The biggest reason for low employee satisfaction is a negative user experience (UX), often combined with a poor user interface (UI). Regardless of the caliber of back-end functionality, if the solution is difficult or cumbersome for employees to use, any higher-level benefits that impact the organisation may become irrelevant. In fact, a survey of technology users and buyers showed that 72 percent would be happy to trade some software functionality for ease of use, and 83 percent said that the biggest challenge in software deployment is getting their teams to use the software.
As a result of these challenges, a thorough assessment of the UI/UX needs to be an integral part of any software vendor review, in order to ensure all parties’ concerns are properly addressed.
Here are a few things that you should look for when you next assess a software solution:
One of the biggest gripes about a poor software UI is a cluttered screen. Unnecessary, unused tabs, boxes, buttons and fields all take up valuable real estate on the screen and can be distracting to users. A button or field that may be useful to one company – or even individual user – won’t necessarily apply to others, and could degrade the overall UX. One solution is a software solution whose UI can be configured not just by company but also by user/role. This will ensure each user only sees what they need to see, and isn’t faced with clutter and irrelevant buttons or fields each time they log on.
Vendors seldom bother to determine end user requirements at anything more than the company-wide or “best practices” level based on its prior implementation experience, and since no company is exactly the same, this generic approach often frustrates users and leads to considerable dissatisfaction.
How easy is it to use? Complex and unintuitive solutions are hard to learn and easy to forget. This means that product training will be an expensive and ongoing process, and calls to the help desk will be frequent. Constantly having to try to remember how to use a solution lowers productivity, and annoys end-users. While many sales executives will use an expense solution on a weekly basis, a majority of users will only submit expenses a few times a year. An intuitive solution should be just as easy to pick up even if the user hasn’t logged on in several months.
A user-friendly solution won’t require too many steps to perform any task, and should minimise the number of clicks and keystrokes required to submit expenses. Clear, simple icons and drop-down menus make a solution straightforward and intuitive, and removing the need to toggle between several screens to complete tasks speeds the process up significantly.
All enterprise software needs to be accessible on a mobile device, and this is especially true for any travel-related solution, such as expense management. The simple button- and icon-based interface that makes life more straightforward for users one a desktop solution is even more critical for users who are accessing it from a mobile phone. Even with phones’ screens continuing to grow, it can still be very fiddly to use a solution if buttons are small and/or close together.
Ease of use of the solution on a mobile device is also a critical factor for user satisfaction, so a UX that reduces the number of steps required, by automating as many processes as possible will make the system more popular. One example of this is one-step receipt submission, which uses data parsing and optical character recognition to automatically extract expense data from images and emails, and populate fields within the expense report. This avoids the need for transaction data to be manually entered, which can also be somewhat tricky and time-consuming to enter on a phone’s keyboard.
As many employers will mainly enter receipts and submit their expenses (and approve others) while on the road, the UX should be just as rich everywhere. If a user can only perform 50 or 75 percent of their required tasks from a mobile device, it can be frustrating and lead to delays in expense reimbursement. Solutions which rely on iOS/Android apps to access them often strip out a significant amount of the functionality, so may not have every feature that all users require.
A solution which uses a mobile web app approach (where the full solution is available on any mobile device via its browser) can offer significant usability benefits. In addition, the unique configurations mentioned in the first section can only provide a benefit to travellers if they are accessible on a mobile device, and using a pre-configured app, downloaded from an app store, will eliminate this benefit.
Users rarely interact with an enterprise software solution on only one device. They will access it from a laptop a phone and maybe also a tablet. They may move from an iPhone to an Android device, or vice versa. In addition, unless organisations provide the same mobile device for every employee, their users will have a wide variety of devices, screen sizes and operating system versions.
If the UX on a mobile device is significantly different to that on a full (desktop/laptop) version, or if the native iOS/Android apps have a different look-and-feel, it could require users to “learn” multiple versions. This could be both confusing and annoying, and could increase the number of support calls. In addition, it will be more difficult for training and ongoing support, as in-house resources will need to understand which devices are being used before they can help the users, and also know how to support each version.
Why does this matter?
Innovation, configurability and an optimised mobile experience are all important factors for users, and employers who value their employees should ensure that any software solution addresses each of these. While it can never be guaranteed that every single user will always love every piece of software that they have to use, taking careful steps in the assessment process to find a solution that not only has the functionality your organisation requires, but also provides a positive UX for your team, will give you project a better chance of success, keeping your team, your boss and yourself much happier.
Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.