Seducing Users to Improve the Budget Process

In today’s world of software, people are used to being seduced by personal applications that make things simplistic…like Google or Facebook. They now expect that business software will follow suit.

Wikipedia defines seduction as the process of deliberately enticing, corrupting, persuading, or inducing a person to engage in behavior. The word seduction stems from Latin and means literally “to lead astray”. As a result, the term may have a positive or negative connotation.

Seen positively, and in colloquial terms, seduction is a synonym for the act of charming someone by appealing to the senses, often with the goal of reducing unfounded fears. And as all financial teams well know – budget time can generate fear among constituents!

So what does it take to seduce your users into the budget system – to appeal to their senses and reduce fears? Well, let’s learn from some practical examples. Let’s take Turbo-Tax, maybe the world’s most popular business application.

  • Don’t duplicate the current process. Revolutionize the process. If they simply put the tax forms online, it would not have been very effective at seducing the users.
  • Have the software ask the user questions in order to come up with the solution.
  • Make the software work the way the user thinks about the problem, not the way the domain expert or the programmer thinks about the problem.
  • Put the damn thing in the cloud. Why are you still managing applications internally?
  • Have the software speak the language of the user.
  • Make interfaces to other applications simple and under the control of the users (General ledger, payroll or HR and Fixed Asset).
  • Package the functionality that the user needs so that the job can be done efficiently and effectively. KISS. Don’t over-engineer with worthless functionality that no one can or will use.

Too many organizations focus on the needs of the wrong constituency (finance only) and/or over-engineer the process with too much functionality that will never be used by constituents, or the organization overall – but which looks good on paper or in RFP checklists. (They also pay excessive fees to do this.) Functionality is no longer the key to success in business applications; USABILITY is the key to success in business applications…and the key to successfully seducing end-users.

Organizations should focus on the functionality that improves usability, including:

  • Turbo-Tax like interface to keep the overall interface simple.
  • Situational Budgeting – allowing users to budget accounts flexibly the way they think about these accounts.
  • Provide simple and easy ways to provide documentation, justification and notes on any account so that users can explain what they want and why they want it.
  • Specialized functionality for salary and asset planning.
  • Spreading algorithms to create monthly values for the budget that match real-world needs.
  • Workflow and approval process to have total visibility into where everyone is and to easily track and manage and audit approvals.
  • Simplistic reporting to quickly and easily answer questions and handle variance analysis.
  • Pragmatic “What-if” to capture the most meaningful and most common what-if questions that users want.
  • Watch box to allow users to simply monitor their budget assumptions during budget creation and compare that to historical values.

Simply stated – users will put up with less crap today than they used to with respect to business applications. Therefore, they need to be encouraged…or seduced.

Learn more about the XLerant philosophy engaging users and the key features that improve usability for the budget process.

Read More