The time you spend doing the transaction using the software
Usability usually makes or breaks the success of a software system. Unless the user interface design is very well thought out. Therefore, the key issue in building software is usability.
“Meeting of the mind” of the user
The key to usability is the “meeting of the mind” of the user. In other words, taking account of the user’s train of thought while carrying out a specific task. And comparing it to what the software is presenting in the user interface. Subsequently, “meeting of the mind” of your experts who use the software is vital. And it is important for any and every feature. Because even the best and most appropriate features are at risk! Will they support masters’, chief engineer’ and superintendents’ valuable thought train, or will these key workers have to stall?
Data entering users
Certainly in the marine industry, the data entering users onboard are the highest paid people and so is the middle and senior management ashore. The Masters, Chief Engineers, Superintendents to name a few. So, unlike applications built for other domains, shipping needs extraordinary efforts and knowledge in user interface design. Think about it! In which other industries do top wage-scale executives operate up to four different applications every day?
Time you spend doing the transaction using the software
In effect, the highest cost in marine software is the time you spend doing the transaction using the software.
Actually, the time and cost doing transactions using software is about 3 times the out-of-pocket cost of the software. And this is the case for best of breed software, the best case scenario.
But for software that covers the functionality like a tick-box or has not been improved for years, the cost can be 3 times greater. Or 9 times the out-of-pocket lifecycle cost of the software. The calculations are, actually, quite simple. So, let’s start by asking: how long do key staff spend on each application per day? The chief engineers, the superintendents and the purchasing specialists? You will find that that cost in labour is about 9 times higher than the cost of the software spread over the lifecycle. Including every out-of-pocket payment you make for the software.
Isn’t it reasonable, then, to say “Staff time is just so much more than your software amortization”? Essentially, the time your staff spend doing the transaction using the software is usability.
The first thing to ask
So perhaps the first thing to ask your vendor is “how important a concern is software usability?” Another, is to set up time trials with vendors of your choice on use cases your staff care about.