In the early days of enterprise software, the idea of a “personalized’ user experience was non-existent. It was the software equivalent of Henry Ford's famous quote of "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black.". Of course, things could be “customized” for a fee, creating an environment where for every dollar paid for the software, two or more was paid for customization. This usually made the product difficult to upgrade and required internal IT resources to manage.
As technology became more widely used, so did the expectations of business users to have an experience that more closely matched their personal interactions with technology. With the growth of highly functional SaaS products came the shift from IT managed software to departmental managed software. The result is a growing concentration of SaaS agreements being originated and consummated at the Business Unit level.
Given this new dynamic, these businesses units have different expectation for what these tools should be able to do. They want these tools to be more malleable without additional costs or upgrade risks. They want the ability to personalize the technology to look like an internally-developed tool with an infrastructure that takes advantage of best practices that only enterprise software can provide.
In procurement software, personalization can be a broad term, and in the age of cognitive buying, end user personalization requires a balance between empowering the business to tailor the technology while still realizing the benefits of a tool that leverages best practices.
This requires a balance between personalization and standardization.
Too much personalization creates a “one-off” solution that may not be upgradable, or requires costly IT resources to maintain, or leaves the company to build the product on their own.
On the other hand, too much standardization creates a frustrating user experience and can slow end-user adoption.
BuyerQuest works closely with our customers to strike the optimal balance. In our experience, we’ve seen the following areas most requested for personalization:
- Search Assistance – With the large data-stores common to modern technology, the ability to search is critical. Personalizing that search increases the usability of the technology. For example, a US user may search on the term “soda” in the North-East vs “pop” in the Mid-West.
- Home Page Functionality – Often referred to as “widgets”, these small windows of information can be uniquely combined by role or department to create a relevant view of the most important data.
- Corporate/BU Branding – Far beyond just, “put my company logo on the page”, the corporate or business unit branding includes color palettes, buttons and forms that make the technology look and feel like it was created specifically for the company.
- Language and Currency Localization – With international organizations taking advantage of packaged software, the ability of the technology to interact with the user in their local language and currencies are critical.
- Supplier Content – For procurement software, the ability display only relevant catalogs and content is being presented based on the user, role or location eliminates the situation where an IT user has to scroll through a catalog of screws.
Personalization should allow the user experience to be tailored, but not at the expense of the value-added capabilities of the software. These are the areas where innovation and improvement are continuous. We would expect to see limited, or no personalization in areas such as the following:
- UI and Backend Frameworks – Components to include would be notifications, how everything is laid out on the screen, and the amount of data that is available to the user.
- Content Structure - Restricting the ability to modify how catalog and non-catalog products/services are presented to the user. Having a standard approach to online shopping makes it easier for the end user and less time with training.
- Navigation - How the user gets from the home page to the checkout. Creating streamlines and uniformity for users as they traverse the software.
- Importing and Exporting Data - Having a standard for how and what is expected for client imports helps to integrate and deploy new software applications at a more rapid pace, but takes the guessing game out of what our backend system expects.
- Workflow Functionality – "Controlled Personalization" users have the ability to personalize workflows within a pre-established set of options. The user feels as though it's personalized, but in-fact, you simply have advanced options presented to the user.
Procurement executives want a procurement system, not a toolset to build one. They want to take advantage of best practices from other businesses and industries. They want minimal IT interaction, if possible.
Technologies that allow them a wide flexibility in the personalization of the software while not impeding upgradability give them the best path for successful rollout and adoption.