November 20, 2017 Stewart Marshall

How Usable Are Your IT Systems?

You know, I never really gave it any thought.

That’s the typical response coming from owners and managers when talking about the usability of their IT systems. Of course, if you were to ask whether the systems can solve the problems or produce the information that they’re supposed to, you’d get a slightly more informed reply.

But usability…?

“It Works, Doesn’t It?”

Yes it does…probably.

Getting bang for your buck from an IT system is something that’s hard to measure, particularly when looking at internal systems, so the fact that a particular piece of software does its job is usually enough to convince someone that it’s usable.

Sadly, functional capabilities and usability are two very different things and when it comes to a fight between the two, it’s not a fair one. Resources are spent on functionality first and poor old usability is left begging in the street for whatever scraps it can find.

Back Pain

But it’s OK, humans, being the infinitely adaptable creatures that we are, take usability issues in our stride. We learn the limitations, often via the tried and trusted path of repeated trial and error, and then we learn to live with them.

So that would be kinda like that dull ache in your lower back then: the one just to the left of your spine. It’s there constantly, reminding you that you should probably see someone about it, but it’ll be OK, you’ll mention it the next time you see someone.

The trouble is, that someone is often the friend you talk to in the kitchen when heating up your leftovers. You both agree that you should get a referral from your doctor to see a specialist, but the moment you hear that word, the dollar signs appear before your eyes and you quickly decide that you’ll stick with the status quo.

Whatever You Want

Of course, not all of the IT systems are left to wallow in self pity. Websites, the poster boys of corporate software, are primped within an inch of their lives.


Because points make prizes!

There’s a clear correlation between the performance of a website and sales revenue, so we spend big on making sure that everything is easy to access, aesthetically pleasing, the number of clicks required is small, performance is fast and so on.

Btw…I’m acutely aware that I’m not practising what I preach currently. I will though…promise.

Odd though that this is done with such fervour for the great unwashed because they might spend a few dollars with us, but we care little for the welfare of those tolerating the systems we have internally, and they cost us a fortune.

Time and Money

And there’s the rub. Staff costs are a huge drain on corporate resources, so we should be maximising the usability of internal systems to ensure that users can do their work efficiently, effectively and without those twinges of pain we all ignore as best we can.

If we did, we’d find that they were happier in their jobs and that they could achieve more, and this is without doubt a good thing.


Because when the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune find their mark, the last thing we need is IT systems getting in the way.

So, is it about time that you saw that specialist?

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