6 ways to simplify enterprise software

In today's consumer-driven IT world, a new rule stands above all the rest: keep it simple.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

There's no reason why enterprise applications can't be as simple and pleasant to use as today's mobile apps. It requires a change in thinking at the design stage -- enterprise software designers need to adopt a "consumer mindset," and build off the mobile interface experience.

iPad photo by Joe McKendrick 5-2013
Photo: Joe McKendrick

That's the view of with Stan Swete, chief technology officer at Workday, who recently spoke with ZDNet colleague Michael Krigsman and industry visionary Vala Afshar about simplification of enterprise software to drive increased adoption and customer benefit. (Michael reports on the session with Swete here. )

In an account of the interview, written and posted by Vala in Huffington Post, Swete provided six ways enterprise software needs to be simplified: (Swete's quotes are paraphrased by Vala.)

1) Simplify usability by adopting a consumer mindset: "Focus on what consumer internet companies are doing instead of what other enterprise apps are doing."

2) Simplify the structure of apps to optimize seamless upgrades: "To build simple, less complex enterprise software apps that move and evolve over time means frequent, continuous updates and keeping customers current which requires an infrastructure that supports that."

3) Migrate to cloud with a simple, adaptable architecture: Workday took the relational database "completely out of the design of their apps which they think leads to the simplified schema they need to be able to move forward. They have also gone to a completely definitional development of their apps; they don't define logic through coding but by filling out forms to create metadata that provides the logic."

4) Go mobile first: Mobile has to be super simple, which spills over into all aspects of user interface design. "A lot can be learned from this idea of simplicity when it comes to mobile design where fields are taken off of screens, clutter is reduced and more white space is added, resulting in a more presentable solution."

5) Centralize services with intuitive, self-service UI: In Workday's case, it brought together a lot of functionality into a single view to help client companies recruit internal talent. "It's the toughest hiring environment he has seen in 30 years.... We want systems that can heighten engagement - an important element for retention and recruiting."

6) Enable easily accessible, insightful reporting: "You should be able to get information out of your systems without hiring a data scientist."

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