Photo by Lorenzo Herrera on Unsplash

What is an enterprise app?

An enterprise is any business that makes use of software systems, and an enterprise app is designed to meet the demands of the enterprise rather than individual users. Then the question arises: who develops and purchases such information systems? In a nutshell, enterprise architecture (EA).

Historically, EA has been defined as a practice and collection of skills in technology and business strategy that serves as a trusted advisor to senior leaders. Their functioning can be aligned with a design thinking process if they also take the user’s needs and preferences into account. In other words, the input of the end-user has traditionally been undervalued in these purchasing and building processes. Price was also a key factor instead of ease of use of experience design.

Example of enterprise apps:

  • Human resources management
  • Payroll management
  • Customer support
  • Email marketing systems
  • Enterprise resource planning

Why do we care about the end-user?

So, in the enterprise app product design ecosystem, do we need to be thinking about the end-user? The short answer is absolute yes, but why is this the case?

One of the most significant aspects is the increased diversity of end-users entering the changing ecosystem in comparison to decades before when enterprise apps were first introduced. Users were fundamentally one-dimensional, and user experience (UX) research was unnecessary. Since EAs represent the great majority of users, they also contribute to research and development activities through their subject matter expertise.

Another notable change is the entry of consumer companies into the landscape which has pushed enterprise apps to be more creative and cutting-edge. With this shift in corporate strategy, design is now viewed as a crucial function of the product life-cycle, according to industry benchmarks.

What do the end-users want?

Let’s take a look at what one of the greatest innovators of all time, Steve Jobs (of course, Larry Ellison is at the top of the list), had to say about end-users when we’re talking about innovation.

“Some people say give the customers what they want, but that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, “If I’d ask customers what they wanted, they would’ve told me a faster horse.” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.” -Steve Jobs

Customers demand a product that is both faster and easier to use. These are common requests from end-users that I studied in my former and current jobs, where I conducted interviews and did research on enterprise software customers. The argument is that we need to produce a faster car with a better user experience than a horse in order to compete with the consumer apps they use on a regular basis.

How do we make the enterprise app successful?

The answer is straightforward: put the user at the center of every experience. UX research will not only help in better shaping a product, but it will also save money and time while improving the overall experience and increasing business value.

UX researcher Rian Van der Merwe has written 5 Steps to Successful Enterprise UX Research, and the following is a summary of what he has written.

User research recommendations:

  1. Use UX metrics and plan for users, not buyers
  2. Write a user research plan that Includes:
    - Background
    - Methodology and schedule
    - Goals
  3. Outcomes with 3 statements:
    - A list of recommendations to improve the usability of the app
    - Product recommendations to increase the utility of the apps
    - Product marketing recommendations to help overcome possible barriers to adoption
  4. Focus on core user research methods
    - Useful = Utility + Usability
  5. Record and document your session
  6. Share the research findings

Finally, I’d like to highlight my current position as a Principal Product Designer at Oracle Energy and Water which offers a significant enterprise product portfolio. Over the last five years or so, we have come to realize the critical role of user experiences even at the corporate level, a big philosophical shift.

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Reiko Yamamoto

Reiko Yamamoto

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