Invest in UX for Internal Business Applications?

Posted By Trending Topics In Digital Strategy 05/24/2013

When used for internal business applications, UX Design can lead to remarkable savings, increased productivity and happier employees. Billy Hollis, a UX Design strategist and professor on the topic, recently wrote a compelling article about determining when UX savings are worth the overall cost. His numbers and analysis are a clear guide to incorporating UX principles into internal business digital strategy and bear repeating.

Hollis recognizes that “the benefits of following basic design principles when creating or revising a line-of-business application are many, and the investment needed isn’t usually very high,” but intelligently recognizes a number of exceptions to that norm. For example, in general, a program used by a small number of people for a short period of time will not reveal as many opportunities for savings as a program used by thousands of employees for several hours per day. The exception to that exception, however, occurs when the task done in a short period of time by a short number of users is highly complex and carry greater potential loss from user error. Since so many variations like this one exist, figuring out reliable rules for user error can be difficult.

Quantifiable Benefits

Hollis suggests an easy formula for finding productivity improvements and reduced training costs associated with user experience investments. The four numbers needed are:

  • The number of users

  • The average number of hours per day that a user operates the application

  • The loaded cost per user per year (salary plus benefits plus overhead such as computers and office space)

  • The estimated productivity savings of better user experience, expressed as a percentage

Then, Hollis explains, the formula for determining overall savings is as follows:  “f U is the number of users, H is the number of hours of usage per day, L is the loaded cost and P is the percentage of improvement in productivity, the formula for savings is simple: (H / 8) * U * L * (P / 100)”

Similarly, the formula for finding savings from reduced training needs can be calculated by incorporating the following numbers:

  • The number of new users per year (U)

  • The same annual loaded cost per user (L)

  • The number of days of training saved (T)

  • Optionally, an estimate for savings from better productivity during the initial weeks of using the system (P)

This formula for savings is also simple:  (U * L) * (T / 250) + (U * P)

Each of these formulas should give organizations a relatively accurate assessment of the quantifiable savings or benefits achieved through implementation of improved user experience & design.

Qualitative Benefits

In addition to the numbers and cents, some potential benefits that organizations can discover include savings from reduced error rates, higher revenues from better identification of opportunities, and better customer satisfaction and retention.

Hollis actually feels that, over a long term, the qualitative benefits can be as substantial, if not more so, than the quantitative ones. One of the biggest areas where he sees this impact is with user and employee retention. “Consider this experiment,” counsels Hollis, “Put a new hire in front of your current business application. Will their experience with your application’s user experience make them eager to work with you and enhance their loyalty to your organization? Or will it erode their interest and commitment? In the world of UX design, emotional factors are important too.”

User experience design has a substantial impact on the way customers and employers use enterprise mobile applications. What do you think are most substantial for your enterprise, the quantitative, or qualitative benefits? And, what process do you use to figure out savings?

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