Aiming to help employees fulfill day-to-day operations and stay aligned with specific industry priorities, enterprises employ an extensive toolset of software for collaboration, communication, resource management, and business efficiency. Taking into account the scale of enterprise environments, these software systems often appear too complex and, in the end, require optimization to keep fulfilling their key promises—making organizations productive.
While there are many ways to address complexity in software engineering, the solution to enterprise software inefficiency often lies in the plane of experience design. In this blog post, we’ll share some crucial considerations for reducing software complexity through an end-to-end approach to design, based on our experience working with A-players.
So, if you’re interested in keeping complex things simple while playing big and feel like finding long-term solutions to major enterprise-scale challenges, continue reading.
- What is enterprise software complexity?
- Top reasons for enterprise software complexity
- Is it possible to reduce software complexity and remain operational?
- Reducing software complexity with design
What is enterprise software complexity?
In a nutshell, software complexity refers to understanding the composition of a software system and the way its parts are interconnected. When it comes to enterprises, the term encompasses key structural elements of tools and digital assets used by an organization. These often include a combination of various software aids.
- Solutions for managing core business areas and processes—enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), human resource management (HRM), business performance management (BPM), and other systems.
- Databases and systems for knowledge and document management or simply put—the way enterprise data is organized and running.
- Tools for business intelligence and analytics and other crucial mechanisms that help enterprises gain valuable insights into operations, projects, systems’ performance, and use them to make informed choices and optimize their strategies.
- Assets for workflow automation, including chatbots, smart virtual assistants, RPA implementation, and other digital initiatives aimed at automating repetitive tasks.
- Integrations with third-party services that bridge the gap between domestic software and mission-crucial external systems.
A huge part of complexity derives from the composition and diversity of enterprise software systems. At the same time, there are more reasons why enterprise programs and apps become so sophisticated.
Top reasons for enterprise software complexity
Let’s look at the most common enterprise challenges to figure out what exactly creates the complexity of enterprisesoftware.
Siloed organizational structures
Enterprises typically comprise multiple departments and teams responsible for different business areas and goals. An average enterprise toolkit accounts for from 67 to 177 software applications. Even if the key functions and capabilities of these tools overlap, it’s often a matter of legacy, managers’ personal preferences, or lack of time for optimization that make companies preserve inconsistency in app usage and face the need to tackle complexity at scale.
Lack of user-centered approach to system development
Prioritizing specific business goals, enterprise leaders tend to focus on developing a set of features and functions that would bring them desired outcomes. This often results in underestimating the end users of enterprise systems and makes managers find alternative solutions that would be easier to implement and adopt at the level of a specific team and department.
Constant enterprise market evolution
For the past decade, the enterprise market has undergone massive changes. Trillions of dollars invested in digital transformation and innovation adoption have put the stakes high and made businesses comply with the speed and ever-growing requirements of the market. The lack of scalable product ecosystems has made organizations adapt on the go and resulted in chaotic product development to address the evolution and remain competitive.
Is it possible to reduce software complexity and remain operational?
Considering the overwhelming amount of tools enterprises use daily and the complex nature of large-scale business processes, it may at first seem impossible to admit any simplifications to the structure and applications of enterprise software.
At the same time, the need to scale productivity and improve resilience to market changes seems to have reached its burning point. Gartner has named leveraging sustainable tech solutions a strategic priority for 2023 while McKinsey has underlined rethinking organizational and management structures as a way to achieve digitally enabled operational excellence.
In most cases, speaking of software complexity, business leaders indeed imply the challenges they face maintaining and modifying enterprise apps and, logically, seek to approach them from the side of technology. At the same time, doing so means rather dealing with the outcomes of software complexity than addressing the issue from the inside.
At Trinetix, we believe that tackling the sophistication of enterprise software requires a consistent approach that would rather oversee system complexity in software engineering than address its consequences. To do that, we advocate the needs of enterprise software users and align them with specific business restrictions. This way, organizations create more efficient and sustainable working environments and reduce the costs spent on maintaining complex enterprise systems.
Reducing software complexity with design
Design helps enterprises bridge the gap between the challenging today and a more efficient tomorrow _
The dynamic evolution of the enterprise market urges businesses to continuously evaluate their readiness to face the future, where digital transformation and workplace optimization are no longer optional and competitors are actively experimenting with cutting-edge technologies.
Today, many enterprise companies find themselves in a bubble consisting of growing market requirements, changing business priorities, and evolving user expectations. And this is the point where they consider lowering the degree of complexity.
For years of digital partnerships with enterprise businesses, we’ve developed an impact driven-approach to system redesign. Although each organization has its unique structure and relies on internal processes and priorities, all of them initially treat software tools as a way to provide real value to the end users.
Considering this, we formulated five key design principles that help enterprises reduce software complexity and develop efficient long-term business strategies.
#1. Zoom out enterprise operations to build sustainable software
Often busy moving towards their business goals, enterprises keep developing and implementing new programs and applications that help them achieve desired outcomes. As a result, they don't take the time to look at all the software systems their teams & departments are using at scale. However, by auditing the tools used by different business units, it’s easier to spot the overlaps in functionality across these tools.
Instead of maintaining a number of complex software systems, organizations should consider mapping key tasks and user scenarios with the existing software functionality. Once the dependencies are uncovered, they could decide on software components that need to be prioritized, merged, or deprived of when creating a new end-to-end enterprise product.
Such an approach will help enterprises prepare a sustainable springboard for both software developers and decision-makers responsible for business outcomes, as supporting and transforming an optimized enterprise solution would require significantly less effort.
#2. Focus on user roles instead of developing features and functions
Another reason for software complexity is the lack of a strategic approach to system development across the enterprise. Often, when design research and user studies are underestimated, enterprises proceed with prioritizing features that don’t have a direct impact on the company’s operations, while the real operational challenges remain unaddressed.
As a result, software that has the functionality and complexity needed to solve enterprise-scale tasks appears impractical and creates nothing more than additional sophistication.
To overcome missing promises, organizations need to discover what the desired user experience should look like, and use these discoveries to come up with simple and practical solutions.
Designers are responsible for decomposing user roles and defining key functionality they interact with. To avoid complexity and allow users to focus on their tasks, we adjust system interfaces based on specific role workflows. Knowing them, we can hide or highlight components that are specific for each role.
#3. Create systems that are scalable by design
The growing market requirements and ever-evolving business landscape require enterprises to develop ultimate flexibility and adapt to the changes. Keeping pace with the competitors, companies focus on extending their impact, growing teams, and developing new products to help them solve more complex tasks.
But at some point, enterprises may realize that they are out of room for scaling, as their product infrastructure just won’t be able to handle the extra load coming. In this case, system redesign will require significant budget pumping and make organizations subject to severe reputational risks.
Creating software systems that are scalable by design allows business leaders to prevent the growing complexity of enterprise tools and makes organizations resilient to market changes. This means adding more user roles and implementing new functionality won’t be complicated by forced changes in IT infrastructure and is unlikely to have any negative impact on the company's operational tasks.
Speaking of scalable designs, in most cases we imply flexible layouts and navigational patterns that allow growing product functionality. A simple example is choosing a side navigation panel to replace a standard horizontal bar which is usually located in the header and admits no space for adding new features and add-ons.
#4. Unify design patterns and use the power of UX writing
The diversity of tasks and user scenarios makes enterprise software subject to UX inconsistency. As a result, users of enterprise tools may face digital friction that is likely to result in productivity gaps. This has a negative impact on business operations and prevents enterprises from gaining a competitive edge in the market.
Ensuring consistent and comprehensive experiences throughout all enterprise software components, organizations can accelerate the adoption of new features and technology, and thus, dramatically improve business outcomes.
Providing easy navigation and creating the layouts our users are familiar with from their past experience, we oversee user actions with the app and simplify their day-to-day duties. Here we dedicate special attention to UX copy by reviewing its consistency and relevance to the user journey.
#5. Don't underestimate the data visualization
The abundance of systems and components that comprise enterprise software also creates difficulties for C-level executives and top managers aiming to get a realistic picture of the company’s operations and complicates collaboration between different business units.
Dashboards, interactive reports, and other business intelligence assets allow organizations to collect and visualize enterprise data by structuring action items and statuses in a smart user-friendly way. As a result, decision-makers get a simpler yet more informative view of crucial business processes and improve their commitments.
Learn how we helped a US-based hospital system get a real-time view of healthcare inventories
Analytics plays a pivotal role in business scaling, as it allows companies to observe and review all critical processes and components of an enterprise ecosystem no matter how complex they are.
As you see, software complexity is a common challenge organizations are faced with in today’s evolving reality. Just like any other complex task that roots in the nature of enterprise problems and operations, it needs to be addressed from the inside.
Want to bring transparency to complex processes and workflows?
A discovery-first user-centric approach we leverage at Trinetix has helped our enterprise clients, including Fortune 500 companies, introduce and operationalize a number of innovative game-changing solutions and achieve measurable results.
Let's chat about creating value-driven user experiences that will help you address software complexity and give a revolutionary boost to your enterprise business.