When dealing with Contract Management Software implementation for businesses, the user experience is of paramount importance. This may sound like a statement of the obvious because the user experience essentially defines the usability of a system, but the concept of user experience in any software system can be a contentious issue. There are a number of schools of thought on the subject, and it is something that has launched countless academic studies. In the corporate environment, however, when Contract Management issues are stake, it is important to drill down and understand the core of what it means to properly value the user experience.
Subjectivity versus productivity
The contentious nature of the software user experience stems from the fact that experience is subjective. When you gather feedback from your customers, for example – asking about their experience of using your products or services – you receive responses that are subjective. These responses are influenced by a great many things that provide the context of their experience. The user experience of software users within your employ presents similar issues. It can be difficult to separate the context from the actual data; it can be hard to distinguish the quantitative from the qualitative. This makes accurate evaluation and decision-making challenging.
For example, you may have employees of long-standing, who have been using a particular system for a number of years. Their user experience of a newly implemented, replacement software package will be informed by their level of attachment to the previous system in the business environment, as well as their personal willingness to accept change. This, in turn, can be informed by any number of things that are outside the control of the corporate environment, including age. This is the context of that user’s experience. You may find the feedback from that user is juxtaposed with that of their co-worker, who embraces the new system enthusiastically and provides positive feedback. You are likely to find that the feedback of other employees falls at different points on this user experience spectrum.
This is where the subjectivity of the user experience can impact productivity. A department or business section may have once been a relatively well-oiled machine, but the ability of that team to complete the tasks at hand may be disrupted by the updating of a system. Varying levels of resistance to a new software implementation – however, clear the overall benefits of such a modernization maybe – can have a negative impact on morale, and reduce productivity across the board. This is of particular concern when the area of business affected is the Contract Management section.
For this reason, leadership is vital in striking the kind of balance that is most appropriate for your business. This balance, and the resulting corporate policy approach, must reflect the idea that lasting, quantifiable value is of a higher priority than temporary, subjective experience. Lasting value requires focus on the ‘big picture’; on the long-term view, and the overall benefits to the enterprise as a whole.
How to strike the right balance in valuing user experience
While technological advances are constantly being made, the three core principles of evaluating software usability still apply:
- Effectiveness – Does the software achieve what we need it to achieve?
- Efficiency – Does the software improve speed, reliability, and productivity?
- Satisfaction – Are both the users and the company happy with this choice?
Of those three core principles, effectiveness and efficiency are quantifiable, while satisfaction is a more subjective area. Company level satisfaction will be determined by the first two principles – effectiveness and efficiency. User-level satisfaction is where the challenge lies.
The most important consideration is in your choice of software. Selecting the right package for your business means opting for the one that does what you need it to do, in a way that your users can manage. To strike this balance, it is necessary to take the path of consensus; the middle way that eases the system transition in the majority view. This means your new system should be:
It should present a shallow learning curve for most users with training and support provided. It should feature a clean, clear layout, and should be available on a multi-platform basis – supporting use on mobile phones and tablets, as well as desktop computers.
Once your business leadership has arrived at the decision to update a software system, there are several key steps that, if taken at the appropriate time, can help to strike the necessary balance, and ease the implementation process.
- Training – Early access and a comprehensive training program makes a very big difference. This is especially true in the case of switching from a long-used system to a modernized system – because anxiety around new technologies has a significant impact on the user experience.
- Communication – Providing space and opportunity for constructive communication around the new software implementation not only eases the anxiety of new users but also allows for early troubleshooting.
- Phased roll-out – It is not the case that a new software system is simply installed and files imported. A phased roll-out allows for smaller sections of your business to be onboarded, and the results of each phase monitored and evaluated. This again allows for early troubleshooting and adjustments to be made in response to both load tests and user experience feedback.
Customization – the key to the user experience
The user experience of any software system is greatly improved by customization, and this applies particularly to Contract Management Software. Those users responsible for creating, updating, and maintaining contract documentation and libraries are experts in the contract system needs of your business. By opting for Contract Management Software that is fully customizable, user anxiety and negative experiences can be greatly reduced.
Customization eases the implementation process for two, user-oriented reasons. Firstly, if users are consulted about the customization that is required, then they are afforded both a sense of control in the transition stage and the opportunity to ensure that the software is truly fit for the purpose of your enterprise. Nobody knows the needs of your contract system better than those who work with it on a daily basis, so these specific employees are a vital resource in the earliest stages of software implementation. Secondly, if the user experience and feedback is accurately factored into the customization process, then increases in productivity and efficiency should be seen very quickly, along with a reduction in costs.
Effective customization can increase the level of automation and access throughout the software, which means that your users can find what they need quickly, and with a minimum of manual input. Your project timescales can decrease as a result, with the potential to achieve more in less time quickly unlocked. Moreover, for management and senior leadership, the benefits of customization will include accurate reporting of those system improvements, and the work being completed by other software users. With this level of transparency achieved, users at all levels will see an improved user experience.
In the final analysis
So, what can we take away from this discussion, regarding the valuing of the user experience in Contract Management Software? It is vitally important to differentiate between simple resistance to any change on the part of the user, and genuine concerns and issues around the software and its implementation. It is also important to balance user experience with lasting commercial value for your business. These are challenging decisions because they set emotive responses against data but, for the success of your enterprise, the data-oriented approach must take priority.
Onboarding staff early is a key element in any successful software implementation. That means consulting users about customization options specifically and carefully monitoring the outcomes through a phased roll-out. Finally, ensuring high levels of communication and transparency makes all the difference.
In the final analysis, taking these steps and factoring in these considerations will ease any software implementation for your business, but what is absolutely essential is having a provider that knows all there is to know about the relationship between platform transitions and user experience. Symfact is highly experienced in helping businesses of all sizes and types manage software roll-outs and can help you ensure that user experience is a benefit to the process, rather than an obstacle.
Customization lies at the heart of Symfact’s Contract Management Software, and the Symfact team can work with your own employees to tailor a package that will deliver as smooth a transition as possible. With the wholesale improvement in efficiency and efficacy in mind, Symfact brings a wealth of expertise to every software implementation in order to achieve a reduction in overall operating costs.
This is only possible if your users are consulted, onboard, and open to the implementation process. It is an outcome that is only achievable if the user experience is valued in a way that is balanced with the bigger picture, and with the long-term benefits to the commercial operation. This is one of the many arenas in which Symfact excels, and is why Symfact Contract Management Software is the right choice for your business.