Thursday, 12 March 2015 00:00

Main Issues of Facility Management (FM) Software Usability

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In the Facilities Management Industry, the value of enterprise software solutions differs depending on the user in question. For the executives and managers who make the decision to purchase these solutions, value is often defined in terms of the bottom line. Enhanced data tracking and reporting enable them to make more accurate assessments of their operations, which in turn make for better decisions and forecasts.

For operations-level staff, the value of enterprise software has more to do with the often loosely defined concept of Usability. Those responsible for choosing which software solution to invest in can easily take promises of usability at face value, effectively checking it off their list of requirements without stopping to look deeper and determine what exactly the term means, which can carry major consequences for staff buy-in. The key measures of usability can be formulated into the following question

Is the program Effective, Efficient, Engaging, Error tolerant and Easy to learn?

Effective: In a computerised maintenance management system (CMMS) it is critical to connect all the dots and see as much of the overall workflow as possible. Doing so will establish a good sense of whether there are problems that may undermine the program’s overall efficacy.

Efficient: Live product demonstrations are a good way to get a feel for how many clicks and data entry points are required to progress through certain tasks. It is important to consult end users during the purchase process to get their feedback, as they will be the best judge of what will work for them in the long term.

Engaging: Engagement is a measure of the extent to which users actually enjoy using the software. The appearance of the program, along with the means through which commands and data are inputted, are two major factors that affect engagement. Growth in smartphones and tablets provide a good example of the role that input method plays in overall user engagement and buy-in. Touch screen functionality, while achieving the same ultimate goal as mouse/cursor input, is highly engaging and intuitive, which is a big part of the reason why mobile functionality has been a big driver of growth in enterprise software sales in recent years.

Error tolerant: Error tolerance is key to user buy-in because it makes users more comfortable using the software. If they know that they can’t make serious mistakes within the program, they will feel free to perform their tasks. And limiting access will make those tasks more clearly defined and easier to learn.

Easy to learn: Familiarity breeds comfort, which in turn lowers apprehensions and increases buy-in. It is thus important that users don’t feel bewildered by the basic configuration. Usability, more than a marketing buzzword, is actually a highly specified measure of a program’s overall quality. Buyers who are aware of its nuances are likelier to make the right choice for their company, which will go a long way toward ensuring its ultimate success.