The Digital Accountancy – Part 4: Focus on the User Experience (UX)

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Digitization and automation of the bookkeeping and accounting processes is a trend that will have a guaranteed long lifespan. Previously, I’ve blogged about the topic from different angles and fact is, that there’s a vast amount of benefits to achieve by digitizing an organizations’ administrative processes.

Moving down the digitization and automation road equals implementing new software tools and new ways of working. And anyone who’s tried to roll out a new software solution in an organization will say that the most nerve-racking part is the part about the adoption of the software amongst the employees. Will they like it or not?

In this blog post, I’ll look into the importance of user centricity and the importance of a solid user experience – or what’s called UX in short. Trust me, it’s very important!

Why digitize and automate bookkeeping and accounting?

Let’s set the scene to start off. The advantages and benefits with digitization are, as mentioned, numerous. From a high-level perspective the benefits are increased productivity, less errors, better usage of resources and more precise data for reporting and analysis. However, paradoxical enough, the fact is that many are hesitating to initiate the digitization work.

One of the reasons for this is the beforementioned nervousness related to implementing new software and transforming a process that already works. Decision makers are simply afraid that the users won’t adopt the new technology that’s needed to support the digitization process, and thereby they won’t be able to capitalize on the expected benefits. On the other hand, you can also say that they won’t capitalize on any benefits either, while sitting and being nervous about changing a process. Anyway, the concern is actually real, as user adoption is crucial to a successful roll-out of new software.

It’s proven that a great user experience can significantly contribute to realizing the expected benefits. When choosing software to support a digitization project, it’s a really good idea to include the user experience as an important evaluation parameter.

User centric development

There’re many ways of approaching software development, but I truly believe in putting users and the user experience first in all of the development work. It requires more resources, because it means investments into understanding the needs and requirements of all types of users that’re designated to work with the software on a daily basis.

If we’re talking about different processes in the finance function, then some systems will exclusively have the finance professionals as users, but for other systems, there’ll also be users amongst other groups of employees throughout an organization. This means that we can be talking about large amounts of work related to mapping and understanding different user types, and then designing a user experience that resonates properly with all of them. And there’s no shortcuts to be made here – I can testify to that.

There’re actually many examples of lacking user centricity when we’re looking across various software solutions to support finance processes. A favorite example of mine is ERP and finance systems. They’re developed with finance professionals as the primary target user group, but certain add-on modules have other user types as their target audience. This can for example be the module for managing supplier invoices, the module for managing expenses or the module for registering project hours. Often the developers of ERP and finance systems forget this, which means that the user experience will be off. It’s also not hard to imagine that things will go wrong when a user experience designed for a bookkeeper hits a sales rep.

In many cases, it’s the specialized Best-of-Breed software solutions that can offer a differentiated user focus, given that the vendor has invested in that.

The user experience is influenced by the user interface

There’re obviously several elements in the user experience, which, from a high-level perspective, focus on solving the users’ problem. That said, the user interface is very important to the experience. If we’re talking about a mobile-app, it’s about the visual design of the screens that are used for navigation, the layout, the buttons, the color scheme, the font, the animations, the menus and so on.

If the user interface is confusing, difficult to navigate or even visually unappealing it will mean problems with the user adoption. On the other hand, if the user interface is intuitive, self-explanatory, easy to navigate and visually appealing the user adoption will be much smoother.

The Acubiz Way

The Acubiz Way is a term that covers our complete Best Practice approach to Expense Management. An important element in The Acubiz Way is to understand the users’ premises. The Expense Management process is anchored in the finance function but is, at the same time, a process that grasps towards other parts of an organization and thereby also other users. That’s because this is where the expenses are initiated. That’s why the software tools must be developed on these users’ premises. This focus has been a guiding star in our development work for many years and we’ve invested a significant amount of resources in “getting this right”.

There’s no doubt that a well-designed and well thought out user experience significantly increases the implementation success rate. And as I’ve mentioned earlier, quality design of a user experience and a user interface takes a lot of resources – no matter how we approach it. Put in another way, this has a price. Well, and exactly as it’s applicable in many other areas, price and quality also goes hand in hand here.

By the way, my team has written an e-book around software implementation. It covers all aspects of the process, including the importance of user centricity. The e-book can be downloaded for free.

Good luck with the digitization of your accountancy.

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