Businesses deploy software to automate and improve efficiency. Unfortunately, the return of investment might fall short of expectations. Instead of facilitating effective work completion, the software is clunky to use. Users do what they need just to move the work along. They create workarounds to bridge gaps. Assuming that the software is a good fit for the business, the problem is largely attributable to poor design.
Here are four areas to incorporate proper work design considerations in adapting a new tool.
- Data input
Though data input is considered a mundane task, it is critical for two reasons. First, good data is an important asset for sound decision making. You want the software to capture complete and consistent data. Second, data accuracy depends largely on how well the data entry person does his job. When he needs to fumble through screens to complete the data entry, the probability of errors is high. In designing the data entry screens, they need to have a logical flow. There needs to be consistency with the actual tool used to collect the data in the first place. Ideally, the data capture tool looks very similar to the data entry screens. You can build checks and balances in the software, but it is a productivity damper when the design is poor.
Transitions between tasks can slow down workflow. This happens when a worker needs to hand off the work to another person. Many software applications have the capability to trigger an alert to the receiving person. This alert, when designed properly, can incorporate the essential information for that person to make a decision and take action. The workflow management capabilities available might be limited in comparison with a formal business process management tool, it is feasible, however, to incorporate some workflow to minimize the need for manual approaches such as paper file folders and Excel checklists.
- Data presentation
To make it easy for the users to locate information on-the-fly, the designs for searches and the data layout on the screen cannot be ignored. This can be accomplished with input from the users of the software. It is specific to job roles. User X might not need what user Y requires. Company A’s screens might not work for company B. The users need to identify the nature of the data lookup and the specific data they need to address the queries. Proper search functions, data segregation and presentation minimize the time spent on tasks.
- Work monitoring
Statistics have traditionally been considered as a reporting function. A reporting tool is used to extract data and create a report. Often, it requires special effort to retrieve and compile the information needed. In deploying a new software, it is necessary to incorporate work monitoring to capture essential statistics. These statistics are useful for monitoring throughput and the quality of work. Good solution designs identify the work monitoring needs up front. It is not an afterthought.
To leverage a tool to optimize productivity, you design it to suit the demands of the business needs and job roles. Avoid rolling out the software quickly at the expense of usability and effectiveness.