Business software is under pressure to update its user experience

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When Citigroup Inc.

Last year he mistakenly sent nearly $ 900 million to lenders, this not only sparked a legal battle for money, but unintentionally highlighted a separate issue in the back office: the experience. often awkward in using business software.

The erroneous payment at Citi came as workers attempted to send an interest payment of nearly $ 8 million using financial software called Flexcube, offered by an Oracle affiliate. Corp.

Citi blamed the error on human error. An Oracle spokesperson said financial institutions use Flexcube to securely conduct billions of dollars in transactions every day.

In the ensuing litigation, as Citi attempted to recover the money, the bank shared images of its software. The screenshots showed a user interface with a dense type, low contrast, and small buttons and boxes.

It’s the kind of design that would cringe executives at consumer-oriented companies, including banks with bright, easy-to-use apps for their checking, savings and credit card customers, said. designers and analysts. But that hardly stands out in a business environment, they said. As people seek out the best user experiences as consumers, they are often forced to check out these kinds of expectations at the office door.

In part, that’s because people who choose enterprise software for their business rarely consider user experience, said Sam Horodezky, founder of Strathearn Design, a user experience consulting firm. “They will frequently choose the product with the most functionality or the lowest cost, with no regard for the end user at all,” he said.

It can also be costly to modify or update business software and may require retraining employees, Horodezky added.

The screenshot of Flexcube reflects an older, customized version of its enterprise software, the Oracle spokesperson said. “The screenshots presented in court do not reflect the current user interface of Oracle’s business lending systems,” she said.

An image of the software that workers used when they sent lenders more money than expected. Citi blamed the error on human error.


Photo:

United States District Court – Southern District of New York

There are also key differences between personal payments and business loans, the Oracle spokesperson said.

“These loan systems are designed for trained users who need to consider multiple scenarios and complex areas, and are not limited to transferring money from one person to another,” she said.

No two business loans are structured the same as they might be in consumer loans, said Paul Spiteri, managing director of Lending Practice, a commercial loan consultancy. “It’s hard to wrap technology and processes around something that isn’t twice the same,” he said.

The good news for workers squinting at dimly lit designs is that the consumer sector is pressuring companies to deliver better digital experiences for customers and employees, according to software officials.

“They have an influx of users who demand easier, simpler, and more modern experiences,” said Todd Olson, managing director of Pendo.io Inc., a product engagement software company that offers services such as integration and user training.

However, while changing relatively obvious elements in the UI can help, it doesn’t always solve deeper issues, he said. Businesses may need to analyze how much time users spend on certain forms or where they stop, for example, to understand what changes need to be made.

Companies are starting to invest in making products easier to use, but their efforts are still relatively nascent, said Andrew Hogan, senior analyst at Forrester Research Inc., a research firm.

More experience report

“They pay interest on design debt,” Hogan said of companies that don’t make ease of use a priority. “This is an area that is going to see huge investments over the next few years.”

The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the adoption of digital practices in business software, said Lidiane Jones, executive vice president and general manager of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, part of enterprise software provider Salesforce..

com Inc. Technologies like personalization and artificial intelligence, commonly used in consumer products, are starting to become features that business software users want, she said.

After the overpayment snafu last August, Citi said it was in the process of upgrading its lending operations platform. “We have put in place important additional controls until the new system is operational,” he said at the time.

Write to Ann-Marie Alcántara at ann-marie.alcantara@wsj.com

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