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(Editor’s note: Andrew Filev is CEO of Wrike. He submitted this story to VentureBeat.)
Each year, there are hundreds of social business applications that appear on the market. Ultimately, only a few get traction.
The key to a success for a business app lies not just in solving users’ problems, but in being easy to adopt (thus minimizing the initial productivity dip). Think back, if you would, to the days when enterprise social software first arrived. A lot of vendors promised a revolution and an email-free world – but generally users didn’t want a revolution.
Instead, focus on the habitual behaviors and behaviors of your customers. Leveraging their existing habits and solutions is often a better approach than trying to drastically (and rapidly) change their working experience. Here are four ways to do that:
Avoid surprises – Jakob Nielsen, the Web usability expert, said, “The more users’ expectations prove right, the more they will feel in control of the system, and the more they will like it.” Any minor, unpleasant inconsistency might become a deal-breaker when the users are taking their first steps in your software.
Google Wave was positioned as an “all-in-one” alternative to e-mail, IM and file-sharing tools. But there was a very confusing inconsistency in it – complete isolation from the tools it intended to replace. It took a long time before email notifications and browser add-ons were implemented, and the only way to see if you got a reply to your last wave was logging into the app over and over. That was frustrating for business communications, where consistency and speed of reply are critical.
Make data flow easily – Go where the users’ data is and build your app so that data sync doesn’t become a burdensome routine for the users. For example, Microsoft Project is a solid project-scheduling tool with an advanced set of features. But in a fast-moving knowledge worker environment, the files get outdated fast.
Here’s why: over 90 percent of business users say that they still rely on email in their business communication. If a tool doesn’t take email into account, people have no other choice than to input updates from emails into plans manually.
Users might tolerate this initially, when there isn’t much data, and where they are still euphoric about the new, shiny tool. Gradually, though, as the new system gets more and more data, it gets harder to keep up with the changes and log them into the system. People become reluctant to use this system. Without up-to-date info, the system will be of no use at all. It’s like a nicely decorated, but totally empty nightclub. Integrating your software with email and other ubiquitous tools will inspire your users to make your “club” fully packed.
Tailor the app to a growing team – Consider scalability, so your app feels just as comfortable when it’s being rolled out with more people in an organization.
Facebook’s social graph model has proved effective by scaling its collaborative environment for 600M users. What’s key there is the way it neatly connects all the data and makes it easy to navigate at any time. This idea is perfectly applicable to business world.
Instead of separate workspaces, much like a bunch of bubbles floating on their own (and occasionally bursting), think of any collaborative app you design as one hub, connecting the work for all users.
Consider passions and habits – People’s passions can be leveraged for quicker decisions in your favor. For instance, everyone is a mobile user today. Make the users your allies and supporters by better understanding their existing behaviors and better integrating with their existing tools.
Obviously, some people are more open to changes and new solutions, while others are more conservative, but your focus is to speed up the adoption process. You can do that by offering an app that would provide comfort in the workplace for regular business users in any organization.
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